Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Letter to the Panel on Educational Policy about DOE's unnecessary spending on contracts

Let us know if you'd like your organization to sign onto this letter by noon tomorrow 4/23/20, by sending your name, position and organization to  Thanks!

Dear members of the Panel on Educational Policy:
We wanted to make sure you saw this attached letter sent by the NYC Comptroller to the Chancellor, asking him why he intends to spend up to $700 million for busing services this year that are not being used, before you’re asked to vote to approve these contracts next week, on Wed. April 29.
The proposed spending on busing is especially egregious given the city’s fiscal crisis, and the more than $800 million that the DOE has proposed in budget cuts to education next year.  We can envision no legal or programmatic reason to extend these contracts at this time.  Even if these were existing long-term contracts, they contain provisions known as Force Majeure, which allow either party to cancel any financial obligations in case of unexpected emergencies such as epidemics, as the NYC Comptroller’s letter points out. 
We also urge you to  ask the DOE about other contracts and pending to be voted upon, that if eliminated, along with these busing contracts, could obviate the need for any budget cuts to schools next fall:

  • Why should DOE be authorized to spend $4.5 million for additional nurses now, when we have about 1400 nurses already on staff and only about 70 Resource Enrichment Centers operating at the current time?  What are the existing nurses on staff doing, and how would these additional nurses be deployed this year?
  • How much is the DOE paying for each iPad, for sim cards to access the internet, and for all of this collectively?  And why was the decision made not purchase laptops instead, which are more useful to students?  According to the NY Post, a City Council source said that the DOE is paying  $625 for each iPad – unclear if this included the sim cards.  Assuming this is the price and they are purchasing 225,000, if laptops were bought instead at about $200 each, this might have saved as much as $100 million, about equal to what the DOE proposes to cut Fair Student Funding from school budgets next year.
  • Why does DOE want to spend an additional $40.5M for IBM to “stage” these iPads; why is this necessary?
  • What is the per hourly rate charged by  Accenture for consulting during the COVID crisis, amounting to $1.2 million, and exactly what will they be doing?
  • Why is the DOE asking the PEP to approve an additional $3.4 million for professional development for the current school year, considering it will likely go unused and the Chancellor is proposing to cut $98 million from PD next year?
  • Why is there still a need for $40.8 million in custodial supplies, although the vast majority of schools closed more than three months early? With it still uncertain as to whether schools will be open this summer either, it would appear that custodial supply needs should be reduced significantly this fiscal year and into the summer months.  
  •  At the contract committee meeting that happened last week, Lindsey Oates, the DOE CFO, stated that most of these contracts were decided upon 45 days ago when schools were still open.  Why then haven’t they since been reconsidered and taken off the list for this year?

We hope if you ask these questions of DOE, you can obtain responses in writing, so they can be shared with the public.  If any of these questions are not answered to your full satisfaction, we urge to vote not to approve these contracts.
The PEP is supposed to be an independent voice that can represent the public interest, and provide checks and balances on the Mayor’s unilateral authority.  In August of 2009, the state legislature amended the school governance law to require that the PEP vote on every contract over a million dollars, to ensure that every dollar spent on education in NYC is not wasted.
We hope you fulfill that intended role, which given the city’s fiscal crisis and proposed budget cuts, is more important than ever.
Additional information about these proposed contracts is contained in two NY Post articles, here and here, as well as two posts on the Public School Parents blog, here and here. 

Yours sincerely,

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

Naila Rosario, NYC Kids PAC

Community Education Council District 3

Community Education Council District 4

Community Education Council District 6

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