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August 11, 2017
Audit: NYC issued $2.7 billion in noncompetitive education contracts — and often violates its own rules
"This investigation shows that DOE acts as though the rules don’t matter."
where the money goes
March 26, 2015
Officials vow to release contracts info earlier; take heat for budget delay
The promises come weeks after the department faced criticism for its handling of a contract worth up to $637 million from a company implicated in an earlier scandal.
February 25, 2015
Tech contract approved after city acknowledges need for more transparency
A burst of concern over the contract's size and connection to a past scandal prompted city officials to say they will be more transparent in the future.
testing test drive
February 19, 2015
State looks to create its own computer-based tests as officials put off switch to PARCC
The decision further delays New York’s shift from print to computer-based tests and indicates that the state has no immediate plans to adopt the PARCC tests.
November 14, 2014
Principals union, city enter mediation as contract dispute drags on
The city and the principals union have entered a mediation process after failing to agree on the terms of a new contract, union officials said Friday.
October 8, 2013
Looking to future, education officials imagine next UFT contract
At a panel geared toward current and potential education funders in New York City, city and state officials said they'd like to see some changes that philanthropy can't produce. City Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky and State Education Commissioner John King both said they want to see the city's next mayor use contract negotiations with the teachers union to give educators time to work together. “The next union contract needs more professional development time,” Polakow-Suransky said. “One of the biggest mistakes Randi and Klein made in the last contract was removing professional development time.” He was referring to Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein, who as UFT president and chancellor in 2005 negotiated a contract that traded about two hours a week of teacher training time for more teacher time with struggling students. The city’s contract with the teacher’s union has expired, as have the contracts of all labor unions in the city, and one of the new mayor's first tasks will be to negotiate a new one.
April 22, 2013
Pearson's NYC misstep draws state education officials' concern
ALBANY — State education officials expressed doubt today about whether the testing firm Pearson, which has several contracts in New York, can handle its expanding workload. "Obviously, the public is starting to question, I think, very aggressively with us whether or not they're able to manage all of the things they've taken on," New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said of Pearson, whose subsidiary testing company NCS Pearson, Inc. has a five-year, $32 million contract to create tests for the state. Tisch, who has criticized the testing company before, was responding to Pearson's latest misstep in test administration. On Friday, the New York City Department of Education said nearly 5,000 students were told they were ineligible for the city's Gifted & Talented programs when they actually should have made the cut. Three separate errors took place during test grading, which Pearson oversaw, department and company officials both said.
May 9, 2012
Officials: Temporary stay on turnarounds could derail process
City officials are fretting that even a temporary halt to hiring at 24 turnaround schools will weaken their ability to carry out a key piece of the improvement strategy for those schools: recruiting top-quality teachers. On Tuesday, when the Department of Education agreed to halt hiring in the schools for at least a week during the first round of a union lawsuit, officials said no hiring would be happening yet anyway. But they are worried about what would happen if Judge Joan Lobis grants a temporary restraining order extending the freeze, as she did two years ago when a union lawsuit over school closures came before her. If that freeze extends into June, officials say it could hurt the schools' chances of attracting and retaining the most qualified teachers in the applicant pool. When the judge decides whether to grant a temporary restraining order, she will weigh the likelihood that the unions' case has merits — but not the merits themselves — and also the likelihood that a delay would harm the schools. Department officials seem likely to argue that the schools would not be able to recover from a slowdown because teachers may not be able to hold out until June if they receive other job offers before then. But the request for a restraining order is not unexpected: The UFT vowed to sue almost as soon as Mayor Bloomberg announced the turnaround plans in January, and seeking a temporary restraining order is the first step in many legal fights over school policy.
December 14, 2011
Citing unexplained cost jump, comptroller rejects DOE contract
A day after taking aim at inflated food costs at the Department of Education, Comptroller John Liu blocked the city from paying more for custodial services. In an uncommon move, Liu rejected a $65 million contract with Temco Service Industries today, saying the DOE had not justified a 44 price hike when applying to renew a contract with the Bronx provider of cleaning and maintenance services. Since at least 2007, the department had paid Temco $45 million annually for its services. Liu said the department had not explained an additional $20 million tacked on to the contract extension. “With budget deficits still looming, contracts with huge inexplicable cost increases and other outstanding questions simply cannot be green-lighted,” he said in a statement. “An extra $20 million on top of $45 million is an enormous amount of money." DOE officials said Liu had not alerted them to his concerns before he issued a press release rejecting the contract today.
November 29, 2011
Report links SESIS struggles and DOE's contracting practices
The special education data system that has teachers and parents frustrated carries a $79 million price tag — and wasn't even tailor-made for the city schools. That's according to a report by Ruth Ford and Adrienne Day about the Department of Education's contracting practices in the current issue of City Limits, the magazine of the nonprofit Community Service Society of New York. The year-old Special Education Student Information System, or SESIS, was meant to make information about students with disabilities more accessible. But its rollout has been bumpy, with school staff and union officials complaining that using the system is burdensome. Tracing SESIS's origins, the City Limits report characterizes the system as "neither an unbridled success nor a total failure" but rather a symptom of the DOE's reliance on private contractors to solve local problems — a practice that DOE officials said could soon see greater quality control. From the article: The DOE put out a request for proposals for a new system and got several bids. The Virginia-based consulting company Maximus won the contract.
September 1, 2011
Contracts seen as underestimating scale of bedbug problem
The city has underestimated both the scope of its bedbug problem in schools and the response needed to deal with it, say critics who have followed the parasitic pests' resurgence in recent years. More than 3,500 cases of bedbugs were confirmed in an untold number of schools last year, but city officials said just one school was actually infested. Now, the city is on the verge of finalizing long-awaited contracts with three pest control companies — but the contracts don't reflect last year's spike in bedbug cases, and critics say they are inadequate to deal with the problem. Department of Education officials have long maintained that schools aren't hospitable environments for the nocturnal insects, but one pest control executive who has done business with the city says they aren't looking hard enough. "I don’t think they’re serious about the problem," said the executive, who asked to remain anonymous. "They don’t want to know there’s a problem. They don’t want to spend money on the problem." He said his company didn't try for the new contracts because he thought the contracts were "woefully underbudget" to deal with the problem. In fact, he said, the costs associated with the task would put have put his company at a loss. Two of the contracts are worth $14,999 and estimated 225 hours of work for each pest management company — an hourly rate of $67 — according to price quotes that the DOE published when it began collecting bids from vendors.
August 29, 2011
Future of state's data system in jeopardy after contract rejection
An essential piece of the state's Race to the Top plans is in limbo after State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shot down a controversial contract. On Friday, DiNapoli rejected a $27 million contract with Wireless Generation to build a statewide "Education Data Portal" that would have allowed schools and teachers to track and use student performance data. State teachers unions and advocates had protested the contract because it was offered without competitive bidding and because Wireless Generation's parent company, News Corporation, is embroiled in controversy over illegal wiretapping conducted by some of its publications. DiNapoli cited both concerns in his letter to the State Education Department turning down the contract. The rejection marks yet another setback in the state's school reform plans. Last week, a judge ruled that the state should not be allowed to use student test scores to count for 40 percent of teachers' evaluations, bringing to a standstill a centerpiece of New York's Race to the Top plans. Now the data clearinghouse that would make the evaluations possible is also at risk.
August 19, 2011
Calling DOE 'cheap,' councilwoman demands bedbug answers
With school doors set to open in just weeks, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer wants to know why the education department hasn't hired a contractor to handle the resurgence of bedbugs in its classrooms. “I ask that you immediately initiate a bedbug treatment contract to deal with this issue before the start of the school year,” Brewer wrote to Chancellor Dennis Walcott last month. Brewer penned the letter in response to a GothamSchools report that showed a tripling in the number of bedbugs cases found in schools last year, to 3,590. The surge of cases has placed strain on the Department of Education's pest management division, which is required to treat every case of bedbugs. Normally, that work is handled by a private pest management company, but schools have been without a specialized contractor for nearly a year. Bidding on the new contract began nine months ago, but the DOE has yet to award it, spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said. Feinberg said that the city planned to respond to the letter, which also requested a list of the schools that were treated for bedbugs, but had not yet done so.
August 17, 2011
Masses of Verizon strikers gather at meeting to protest contract
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dV_8Eh2K_Js An unlikely union force turned out for the monthly school board meeting tonight to protest a controversial contract that was up for approval. For once, it wasn't members of the United Federation of Teachers that was most vocal against the city's education proposals, but thousands of angry phone technicians with the Communciation Workers of America. The workers are part of a 45,000-member nationwide strike against Verizon for higher wages and better health benefits. For two weeks, the New York Locals have picketed in front of Verizon stores and corporate headquarters. But tonight, the workers took their fight to Murry Bergtraum High School – coincidentally across the street from Verizon's main headquarters – where the Panel for Education Policy voted to approve a $120 million contract for the telecommunications company to provide data services to the Department of Education.
August 15, 2011
School board members often don't see contracts they vote on
On Wednesday, members of the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on several controversial Department of Education contracts totaling millions of dollars. But the panel's 13 members won't be able to see the details of the contracts, which the DOE cannot finalize without their approval. Department officials said this state of affairs is typical. The DOE provides panel members with various parts of the contracts being drafted if available, but often contracts up for approval are still under negotiation when the panel members vote, DOE officials said. Panel members who believe they received insufficient information about a deal may vote against it. "No" is how Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan borough president's PEP appointee, said he plans to vote on Wednesday, when two high-profile contracts are up for approval: a $120 million two-year deal with Verizon Wireless, and contracts of roughly $1.5-3.5 million each over three years with six "restart partners" — nonprofit Education Partnership Organizations set to take over operations at 14 struggling schools. “They’re definitely putting the cart before the horse,” Sullivan said. “Approval is pretty much expected. They want the panel to approve in advance what they intend to do, and they will decide the details and specifics.”
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