Mayoral members of the Panel for Educational Policy secured the minimum number of votes to
approve a wasteful $4.6 million contract for former Chancellor Joel Klein's firm, Amplify Inc. The mayoral bloc was lead by Allison Rogovin and Joe Lewis who argued DOE needs to pay Klein to maintain the ARIS student database in 2014 despite the fact that NY State will make its own student data portal available this fall.
The contract extends the current maintenance which expires in December 2013 for another twelve months. Given that it was only August and the state system was to be ready this fall, I moved to delay voting on the contract extension until later October or November. We could secure additional support only if necessary and for a more limited time period than a full year. My motion was supported by Queens member Dmytro Fedkowskyj and Bronx member Robert Powell. Mayoral appointees Rogovin and Lewis argued that the system was simply too valuable to risk not being available to teachers and parents, a fact contradicted by the notoriously low usage statistics for ARIS. In fact a Comptroller's office audit showed 42% of teachers and administrators never bothered to use it. (see NY Times article)
My second rationale for delaying approval of the contract was the list of adverse findings on the Vendex background check. The worst of these was an outstanding tax warrant against Amplify. Klein's firm owes NY State at least $218,210 in unpaid taxes and is subject to enforcement action by the State including seizure and sale of property. I argued that the warrant raised doubts about Amplify's fiscal stability and ability to provide the contracted services in the event their facilities were seized by State authorities. Again, why not wait until Amplify could demonstrate some responsibility?
I expressed my view that it was highly unlikely that a firm lacking Amplify's influence would be given a contract for redundant services despite series background check failures. Nevertheless, the full contract was approved by the minimum number of mayoral votes for a full year.