Leonie Haimson and Patrick Sullivan of the Citizens Contracts Oversight Committee provided the following comments to the members of the Panel for Educational Policy on the proposed DOE contracts to be voted on May 18, 2016.
See also Item #4 – to provide funds for preK in charter schools. These charter schools should be identified in advance -- especially as some have been shown to engage in abusive disciplinary and push-out practices.
Problems with Special Education provider contracts
"Comprehensive background checks were completed for all vendors whose contracts have estimated amounts exceeding $1 million over three years. While the background checks have not been completed for all vendors, no contract will be submitted to the Comptroller for registration until the background check is complete. Should noteworthy information become known to the DOE after the Panel meeting, it will be reported to the Panel."
But what difference does it make to let the Panel know after they have approved the contract already? Then there is the following statement, which seems to contradict the one above, unless they mean "more than $1 million" instead of less:
"For the background checks completed for vendors awarded contracts less than $1 million, Mayor’s Office of Contract Services’ advice of Caution database, DOE files and Vendex submissions were reviewed for the remainder. No significant adverse information has been revealed to date except as noted below."
Other emails showed that Byrd-Bennett had an active relationship with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt while she was employed with the district.
Among other things, it says that the feds will require "Certification by NYC DOE that no person or entity with any affiliation with Lanham is currently serving, or will serve, as E-rate Program Personnel and by NYC DOE’s vendors, consultants, contractors and service providers that no employee or contractor has any affiliation with Lanham."
And: "For purposes of Subparagraph 3(c) an “affiliation” means a situation in which a person, organization, or other entity is associated with Lanham or Lanham Enterprises as an employee, employer, subordinate, subsidiary, consultant, contractor, subcontractor, member, agent, supplier, or partner, or in any comparable capacity, or has been so associated at any time since five years prior to the Effective Date, except that no E-rate Program Personnel has an affiliation with Lanham or Lanham Enterprises merely as a result of Lanham’s prior status as a consultant to NYC DOE."
It was recently revealed that the DOE still has several ongoing contracts with CCS- Custom Computer Specialists, many of them awarded after the Special Investigator's report was released in 2011, linking that company with Lanham in defrauding the city.
How were these curricular materials supplied without a contract previously, and what cost? What are the “previous non-contracted expenditures and FY 2016 estimates? According to the NY Times, $2.4 million was spent by the Fund for Public Schools starting in 2008-9 to provide the Core Knowledge materials in ten public schools.
Yet a blog post from 2013 quotes E.D. Hirsch, the author of the Core Knowledge, who insists that all the curricular materials for grades K-3 are now available for free on the CK website for grades K-3. He added that “The only way Amplify can make money from CK Pre-K-through 3 is if a school or district doesn’t want to bother with printing, and therefore orders from them. But this also means that Amplify would need to offer the materials at an attractive price."
In fact, the NY State Education Department paid Core Knowledge to make the program available throughout the state for preK- 2nd grades for free, as part of their $36.6 million Race to the Top grant. The Core Knowledge website now provides comprehensive materials on its website for grades preK-5 for free. As the website explains:
Answers to these questions are especially important as Joel Klein was previously the NYC Chancellor before becoming the CEO of Amplify. Though the DOE states that Amplify has now informed them that Joel Klein is no longer an employee, an investor or a Board member, “he may serve as an advisor” and thus may still reap financial benefits from this contract.
Contract with the UFT to provide Common Core training
This explanation is confusing; why couldn’t the scope of work under the original grant be determined before the additional federal SIG funds were received?
Also confusing is that nearly $975K of the grant is going to OTPS, including furniture, computers, rental, travel, expenses, printing, advertising, consultants, and other general office expenses – compared to $575K for compensation and salaries for Teacher Center personnel, who would be expected to be doing much of the training. It would be helpful to see a more detailed breakdown of expenses. Why would the purchase of furniture be needed to train teachers in the Common Core?