Sunday, November 15, 2009
DOE Demands Consultants Get Additional $ At November Panel for Educational Policy Meeting
November's Panel for Educational Policy meeting was the longest yet in my tenure, over three and a half hours. Most of the time was devoted to consideration of the procurement and consulting contracts submitted for approval.
The vote to provide management consultants KPMG with a $3 million extension to continue the Learning Environment Survey was the most contentious. I sharply questioned the wisdom of continuing this survey with looming state and city budget cuts. There is no evidence DOE actually acts on any of the findings. Every year parents ask for smaller class sizes and every year the DOE does nothing to address this concern. Last year class sizes rose in all grades but one. Chancellor Klein was absolutely indignant that I was attacking his survey. He defended it by pointing to all the school district heads across the country who had told him how much they admired it. Impressing your friends is a poor justification for diverting $3 million from the classroom.
See Daily News coverage here.
A contract with Hanover Foods to provide canned ravioli to schools passed 9-3. I voted against the contract because new DOE specifications resulted in only one bidder and a price increase of 41% amounting to $1.1 million in additional cost over three years. While nutritional standard are important, the upgrade was not significant enough to warrant the additional expense. For example, we were told the new specifications called for lower sodium but the reduction was minimal: from 880 mg per serving to 770.
NY1 ran a segment dedicated to this debate here.
There was a lengthy discussion of whether the Panel should approve funding of scholarships to Touro College for teachers seeking qualifications in special ed and other hard to fill areas.
There are three open investigations into Touro including transcript fraud and $53 million in improperly awarded Federal tuition funds. Queens Panel member Dmytro Fedkowskyj and I asked for another month to consider the evidence but our motion to postpone was defeated and the funding was approved.
Through the examination of these contracts I am getting a clear message that DOE is not focused on reducing procurement and consulting costs. Moreover, there is a clear sense of entitlement from the senior DOE staff. They somehow have come to see the irresponsible spending as their prerogative or even right. That's a problem we will be working to address over the next few months. Across the city, school leadership teams are working hard to close growing budget gaps while the Chancellor and his team are squandering millions of dollars.