Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dee Does NYSED

The NY State Ed Department is the monitor for charter schools. Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas. Finally, the NY Times has jumped into the fray today with an article by Medina and Confessore:
More Scrutiny for Charter Schools in Debate Over Expansion.

Dee Alpert certainly seems to know where the bodies are buried at the corrupt NY State Department of Education and the ugly parent the NY State Board of Regents too, headed by Bloomberg friend and neighbor Meryl Tisch, who also has Joel over for Passover to ask the 4 questions, one of which is always: Why is this reorganization different from all the other reorganizations that came before it?

UFT Pres Michael Mulgrew loves Meryl and spent a good chunk of the last Delegate Assembly singing her praises because she "knows education," which makes sense since she spent 10 minutes teaching pre-k in an exclusive Hebrew school about a hundred years ago.
Well, I'll just let Dee go and tear 'em up in these 2 posts to the nycednews listserve (and if you're not on it, what are you waiting for?)

Examination of the agendas and committee materials for the Board of Regents shows why Tisch is crazed, reportedly, to get RttT money, no matter what it takes to do so.

NYSED's budget has been seriously cut by the Governor - to the point that it's merging offices and divisions to save money and avoid vacancies it can't fill due to retirements, etc. Several months ago one major office reported that due to budget constraints already in place at that time, it appeared NYSED wouldn't be able to do the minimal level of monitoring work the feds required in order to maintain eligibility for large federal grant programs. The proposed budget makes the staff cuts far worse.

It's getting to the point where NYSED might have to fire its legendary patronage and no-show employees and officials and just keep people on staff who actually did cognizable work. This is, of course, a fate worse than death to an agency which exists at the whim of the NYS Legislature, a/k/a Sheldon Silver. There was even talk of cutting down on its incredibly extensive program of farming out work to consortia of colleges, universities, BOCES and public school districts instead of doing the work with in-house staff, thus decreasing its reknowned "schmear factor" exponentially. It's also famous for using outside consultants - very pricey ones - far more than necessary - ergo the $1,000 per day early childhood consultant it included in its RttT Round One application. I'd love to know who that consultant is - I assume it's someone who's very ... well-connected.

Rest easy. NYSED has discontinued its practice of putting the staffing of its Audit Office on its web site. We can safely assume that, as always, it has made a policy decision to cut auditors ... first and foremost ... and leave NY school operations to the tender mercies of their collective officialdom.

As far as RttT money being constrained in terms of what it can be used for - relax! USDOE found that NYSED totally mishandled its Reading First grant and gave money to districts which shouldn't have gotten these funds according to NYSED's own RF grant proposal. Then the NYC Comptroller found that the NYCDOE wasted at least 10% of its RF grant on an "unusable" RF web site; paid teachers who were mostly unqualified to be RF staff, and couldn't account properly for at least 50% of its RF funds which didn't go toward paying staff salaries. What did USDOE do about this appalling state of affairs? Nothing at all, of course. What should it have done? Required NYSED (and specifically the NYCDOE) return a fat chunk of their RF grants to USDOE for redistribution to states and districts which would use them properly.

USDOE OIG audits and NYS Single Audits have reported consistently that NYSED doesn't actually audit or verify what districts do with their federal grant funds. So relax! No matter what NYSED puts in its RttT grant application, and no matter what USDOE approves in that application, NYSED is going to tell districts that they can use RttT monies any darn way they want, and if all they want is to use it to stop teacher layoffs, then that's what NYSED will let them do. Of course, they'll have to lie and misreport re what they've done with the money, but NYSED won't audit or verify, nor will it instruct districts' outside auditors to do so. We'll find out that RttT funds were misspent when a new batch of USDOE OIG audits are issued, probably around 2014.

Of course, it may mean that NYSED is able to show no objective positive student outcomes for the $700 million in RttT funds it receives ... but that's nothing new. Even Tisch has been quoted as saying that NYSED spends all this money and doesn't get anything good to show for it. Plus ca change ...

Dee Alpert

As usual, the NYCDOE misrepresents and, where that doesn't suffice, flat out lies.

The NYSED web site shows that the NYCDOE itself is quite late in submitting its outside audits. It also reported several months ago that the "big" outside audit of the NYCDOE's largest federally funded programs had significant negative findings.

Under federal law and regulations, when any district - NYCDOE, charter school - gets negative outside audit findings, NYSED has the responsibility for insuring that negative audit findings are corrected satisfactorily. The last USDOE OIG audit of NYSED's functioning in this area reported - as did prior reports spanning decades - that NYSED does absolutely nothing to insure that where outside audits disclose fiscal and/or programmatic irregularities, these are corrected. Nothing. In fact, the USDOE OIG found that federal funds which NYSED distributes to districts (school districts and charters alike) are very much at risk of "fraud, waste and misappropriation."

When the NYS Comptroller does a different kind of audit on public school districts and BOCES, only NYSED has the legal authority to insure that appropriate steps are taken to correct negative audit findings. Comptroller follow up audits this past year have uniformly shown that NYSED, in fact, has not insured that corrections were made and important negative findings from prior full audits were repeated.

This isn't a "robust" system. It's a dead one - as dead for public school districts as it is for charter schools. The audit issue re charters is far more complex and nuanced than anyone involved in the tiff wants to fess up to publicly.

They're all playing with your heads and praying that you don't figure out what the real issue is re charter audits v. public school district audits, which has absolutely nothing to do with what's bruted about.

Dee Alpert

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