Sunday, January 13, 2008

Alvarez and Marsal of St. Louis, NY, New Orleans, etc.

How many consultants on the head of a pin does it take to destroy an urban public school system?

Follow the further adventures of A and M, our favorite experts on ruining entire public school systems - the famous authors of last year's school bus route fiasco, among other NYC atrocities. Ahhhh! I love the smell of Privatization in the evening!!!

Lisa North to ICE mail:

Below are comments from St Louis on the NY Times article. Notice the comment about charter schools at the end of the comments. Lisa

Comment: The following NY Times article gives enough impetus for either the Post-Dispatch or The St. Louis American to do an investigative report on what transpired behind the scenes politically and perhaps malevolently against St. Louis' public school system.

At the end of this article, the management firm that did so much damage to the Saint Louis Public Schools is called into question in New York as well for costs. Though the contract with Alvarez and Marsal under William J. Roberti and Karen Marsal here in St. Louis was for $5 million, I recall it exceeding that amount and totaling near $11 million--this in a city where the mayor accused the previous administration of spending like "a drunken sailor." And then the State takes over the school district with its financial crisis being a major factor. So much for the alleged reform decisions of the mayor's personally chosen slate of board members.

Connect the dots. . . now the mayor is attempting to establish 27 charter schools. Was the ruination of the traditional public school district part of the plan in order to initiate private or for-profit schools that would receive public funds?

Helen Louise

January 12, 2008

State to Audit No-Bid Award of City’s School Contracts

The state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli , is opening an audit of the City Education Department’s increasing practice of awarding contracts without competitive bidding. In the past five years such contracts have totaled $315 million.

To keep down costs, competitive bidding is normally required of city agencies. But although the Education Department is controlled by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, it is by law a state-authorized entity free from some of the more stringent city financial regulations.

School officials have said that awarding contracts without bidding gives them more flexibility and allows them to get better and faster results, but the city has been fiercely criticized for a rapid rise in no-bid contracts since Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein came into office.

In 2002, when the school system was still controlled by the Board of Education, 32 contracts totaling $11.9 million were awarded without bidding. In 2003, after Mr. Klein took over, the number nearly doubled and totaled more than $56 million. They reached a high of $121 million in 2006, then dropped again last year to $62 million, according to the city’s public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, who has been a critic of the practice. She pressed the state for the audit last fall.

“This is about transparency and accountability,” Ms. Gotbaum said. “Why are they awarding so many contracts without any other consideration? It may all be perfectly legitimate and fine, but we don’t know why.”

In a letter sent to Mr. Klein on Tuesday, the comptroller’s office said it would begin the audit on Jan. 21. Audits typically take between six months and a year. The audit was reported in The Daily News on Friday.

Most city education contracts are still competitively bid, but some of those that were not have been particularly well publicized.

The city came under tough criticism in 2006 over a $15.8 million deal with Alvarez and Marsal, a consulting firm that was hired to restructure the schools’ financial operations and cut as much as $200 million from the city’s more than $15 billion budget. The consulting firm also restructured several school bus routes to save money, but the plan infuriated parents when it took effect last January.

Some of the consultants charged as much as $450 an hour for their work, and were able to bill as much as $500 a day for such expenses as transportation and housing.

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