Because the computer program the DOE uses - a program that costs over $54 million - sucks:
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is blaming the Department of Education's $79 million overhaul of special education programs for costly delays in finding seats for disabled kindergartners.
The agency missed its June 15 deadline for finding slots for about 2,500 kindergartners with special needs - and now the city could be liable for the kids' tuition in private schools.
Speaking at Tweed courthouse yesterday, Walcott pinned the holdup on the agency's switch to a new, Web-based system for tracking students with disabilities, called the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS).
"As a result of the transition to a computer system, those delays are there," said Walcott, referring to the new computer system that the Education Department paid Virginia-based MAXIMUS corporation $54.9 million for in 2009.
At the time, the agency also set aside another $23.7 million to implement SESIS over the next five years. The total cost of SESIS works out to about $600 for each disabled child currently enrolled in the city's public schools.
The program is supposed to ease the schools' delivery of services for disabled students by providing a system for tracking students' needs, but some teachers say it's riddled with problems.
They say they never received proper training, schools don't have enough bandwidth to run it properly, and they wait up to two hours when they call the program help line.
"It's impossible to know how many kids throughout the city aren't getting services because of problems with SESIS," said Julie Cavanaugh, a special education teacher at Public School 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
"It's not functioning properly - there's a serious flaw in the design," said Cavanaugh, adding that it's taking her twice as long to create records for students with disabilities using the new system.
Officials authorized schools to use emergency funds - essentially overtime - to pay for teachers to try to find seats for the incoming kindergartners on evenings and weekends.
Kids who didn't get seats are entitled to a private education paid for by the city under a 1988 legal ruling.
Tuition at approved private schools can exceed $30,000 per year. The city already spends about $100 million to educate about 4,000 kids in this situation.