The Panel for
Educational Policy will vote on a new batch of DOE contracts this Wed. on February 24. As
an elected official wrote me over the weekend, “Am looking at PEP Contracts – some are
questionable.” I replied, “Always! Which ones now?”
Here are some: There are retroactive contracts totaling more
than $58 million for school busing, mostly for the month of January, except for
a Reliant bus contract for Jan. 15 through Feb. 14 for $14.6M.
This is despite
the fact that DOE created a separate non-profit company (with less
transparency) that would acquire Reliant and operate its 835 routes from
January to June of this year, for a total of $59 million, according to
This new proposed
contract document explains:
has risen as a result of the need to provide pupil transportation during the
2020-2021 school-year, while the DOE completes individual negotiations with
Reliant for their pupil transportation services. These transportation services
are necessary for the preservation of the health, safety, and general welfare
of students and the school system as a whole. As such, declarations of
Emergency Procurement and Emergency Implementation of contracts by the Senior
Executive Director for the Division of Contracts and Purchasing and the
Chancellor, respectively, were made (see attached).
what has caused the unanticipated extension of these negotiations with Reliant,
and whether they relate to the $142M
in unpaid pension costs that the DOE insisted to the PEP and reporters they
wouldn’t have to cover, but the union insisted they would.
contract list also includes paying IBM another $5.12M to “stage” and send
55,000 new iPads, similar to the process from last year, when they paid IBM a
total of $40.5 million for this purpose $478 for each of 300,000 new iPads. The
document says DOE actually purchased 404,000 iPads last year – they must have
added even more since last spring, for a total of 459,000 altogether, including
these new purchases.
The document doesn’t
include what DOE is paying for this new round of iPads, but as many previously pointed
are far less useful than laptops especially for middle and high school
students who have to do a lot of writing and editing. The excuse DOE used last year for purchasing only
iPads at a total cost of $270 million was that there was a backlog and shortage
of laptops nationally, with all the sudden school shutdowns and move
towards remote learning. Yet that didn’t
stop other school districts like Chicago from ordering a mixture
of laptops and iPads. I don’t know what the excuse is this year for
solely purchasing relatively expensive and less practical iPads again.
Apparently, for each shipment of iPads, IBM has charged a different price for staging and shipping, according to the document:
While IBM’s price
of $93.55 per device to stage an additional 55K iPads is 11.6% higher than the previous
price of $83.81 for 104K iPads, the increase is attributable to an expanded
scope of services to be
provided by IBM. For the 55K
iPads under the expanded scope, IBM will receive, coordinate inventory, and distribute iPads to multiple IBM sites for staging, as well as
provide boxes and packing materials
to the vendor responsible for final distribution of the iPads to end users. [How this is different from what they did
last time is not explained.] Moreover, IBM’s price
of $93.55 per device is 30.7% lower than its price of $135.08 to stage 300K
iPads under the prior emergency contract. Accordingly, pricing is determined to be
fair and reasonable.
would probably save money for DOE to send these devices via school buses rather
than pay IBM $800,000. Why? Because Gov.
Cuomo said last year and again this year that he will only reimburse busing
expenses if buses are used to deliver either students, devices, other instructional
materials or food. [see the Governor’s Exec.
Budget briefing book, p. 55 and p.56.] This
is what other NY districts used their school buses for during the school
shutdowns, but not NYC.
Last year, DOE was
prepared to pay
85% of the full price (about $700 million) for busing during the five and a
half months when schools were shut (including summer school months) – despite
the fact that no buses were being used. After advocates made a fuss and
Comptroller Scott Stringer wrote
a letter in protest, the city renegotiated the busing contract, saving at least
40% or $167 million during the months of May and June. Yet as the NY
Post reported, though the city usually receives 50% reimbursement for school
busing costs from the state, for the 5 ½ months there was no busing, the city
will not be reimbursed at all – potentially making busing even more costly to
the city than during a normal year.
The same refusal
to pay any reimbursing for DOE’s busing costs may re-occur this year, as the
DOE agreed that they would pay the full price for busing as long as ANY schools are
open and there was no system-wide shutdown.
I don’t know how many buses are sitting idle this year, but there are
likely quite a few.
In other budget news, a Council hearing last week revealed that the NYPD is considering hiring 475 more School Safety Agents this year at a cost of $20 million; even as all high school buildings remain closed, and elementary and middle schools have far fewer students attending in-person (that is, when middle schools reopen next week on Feb. 25.)
executive director of the DOE's Office of Safety and Youth Development said his
office was recently informed that the NYPD is bringing in the two new classes.
He argued the money could be used for restorative justice programs, social
workers, guidance counselors, culturally responsive curriculum development,
literacy programs and community schools — all badly needed resources at the
best of times, made more so by a pandemic that has upended the lives of
hundreds of thousands of students.
This is really
unconscionable, given the ongoing shortage of teachers and school counselors instead;
and despite a promise made by the Mayor to the Council to eventually cut $1
billion from the NYPD budget and transfer School Safety Agents to DOE
control. Clearly that hasn’t happened.
Just to be clear: even though NYPD hires & trains School Safety Agents, their costs comes straight out of the DOE budget, as the DOE forced to pay NYPD for their services whether they want them or not, at a price last year of $300M. From the testimony of the DOE official quoted above, it pretty evident that DOE does not want these new Safety agents that the NYPD wants to force on them.
Contrast this to what's happened in Los Angeles, as well as Minneapolis, Seattle, Oakland, Denver and Portland, Ore., which according to today's NY Times, have begun to "sever or suspend their relationships with local police departments or reduce their own policing ranks. Some districts have said they are reallocating the funds to hire more social workers and mental health professionals to handle problems instead."
If the DOE had remained a truly independent
agency, rather than under the sole control of the Mayor, they wouldn’t have to pay another $20 million for 475 more School
Safety Agents that they neither need nor apparently want.