Posting the District's budget contracts

Weeks ago, Parents United made a FOIA request for the District's contracts, after waiting weeks for the District to report on them publicly. We got them, and so I’ve decided to put them up here.

Since the District budget hearings started, parents and the public have requested information on the hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. We’ve done so because if we’re advocating for increased school funding and if the SRC/District is going to put on the chopping block essential priorities like full-day kindergarten, free transportation for students and local schools’ discretionary funds, then we need to make sure we’re holding the District accountable for its own spending practices and priorities.

In my last post or two, I’ve gone over some of the problematic expenses the District and School Reform Commission have approved in the midst of the worst financial crisis in school history. Usually, the only information that’s made available to the public is through the SRC resolutions posted every month.

But in fact, the resolutions don’t even begin to cover the number of contracts approved by the District. For example, I couldn’t even find the resolution for the $240,000 spent on Alta Communications, a politically connected marketing and public relations firm. It’s just one of the $986,000 spent on PR, governmental and marketing contracts, this despite the District’s having a $2.86 million, 20-person communications office that’s five times larger than the Mayor’s.

There are other questionable expenditures here too:

  • As the Notebook reports, the District’s new $27 million price tag for its Promise Academies works out to an exorbitant $3,600/student paid mostly in extended hours for teachers at those schools.
  • This year, the District is spending $8.3 million on the testing subsidiary of CTB McGraw Hill, an increase of 66% from the previous year’s $5 million, and more than three times the amount spent in 2009 ($2.6 million). CFO Mike Masch has said the District will cut about $1.5 million from testing contracts, but that hardly makes a dent – and that’s just for one company.
  • We may have 3,800 less teachers next year but Teach For America’s contract has more than doubled since 2009, from $301,000 to $668,000 so far in 2011.
  • What exactly did $244,000 buy from Public Financial Management, the organization brought in during the 2007 fiscal crisis to institute budgetary controls and ensure that a similar crisis wouldn’t happen. Last year we paid over $500,000 to PFM. Can we please have this money back?
  • $66,686: The fee for the Council of Great City Schools, which recently named Arlene Ackerman the best urban superintendent in America. This amount is a third larger than the $48,000 paid to CGCS in 2009.
  • Sterlen Barr, aka No Puff Daddy, gained a $234,000 contract for presentations on health and nutrition. Just to put this in context, in FY2011 Xerox had a $299,000 contract District-wide.

There are other things like the $2.2 million spent on Achieve 3000, a school computer program, that didn’t exist in 2009, to $443,000 spent on the International Center for Leadership in Education to the infamous million dollar turnstiles at District headquarters.

As the District looks to pass a budget today that fails to uphold things we know work in education, you have to wonder who’s checking on the contracts that don't seem to make it to public light often enough.

Arlene Ackerman's Fiscal Decision Making Skills

... seem to be quite lacking.

This isn't new to her, because she was accused of the same financial mismanagement when she was in San Francisco.

See:
http://articles.sfgate.com/2005-09-07/bay-area/17392646_1_school-board-p...

Mysterious $45,000 in credit card charges by Arlene on her way out of SFSD:
http://www.sfweekly.com/2006-02-15/news/extra-credit/

Notably, reimbursements are

Notably, reimbursements are part of the federal IRS audit.

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