Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Another Technological Boondoggle By Bloomberg That Is Going To Cost The City Millions

Want to know why the DOE couldn't find seats for incoming kindergartners with special needs for 2011 and now may have to pay for private school for those kids instead?

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.

Who signed off on using a new computer program to track students' needs that has serious design flaws?

Chancellor Klein did.

Here is the press release that MAXIMUS, the company that provides the shitty program to the city, put out in 2009 when they got the contract.

Here is what Klein said at the time (as quoted in the MAXIMUS release):

In a separate release issued yesterday by the New York City Department of Education, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein commented, “The new Special Education Student Information System represents a much-needed upgrade in how we perform vital special education activities, and demonstrates our continuing commitment to improving outcomes for our students with disabilities.”

How's that vaunted upgrade in how the DOE provides vital special education activities working not that they've handed over $54+ million to MAXIMUS?

About as well as you'd expect when you hire a crooked company convicted of Medicaid fraud.

Here is that story from back in 2007:

Monday the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Maximus, Inc., both announced via press releases that the Reston-based government contractor had reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington D.C. and the Justice Department's Civil Division.

Maximus, Inc., is a well-known government service company that provides consulting and program management services. In this case, the company had a contract with the District of Columbia's Child & Family Services Agency (CFSA) as a reimbursement consulting firm for CFSA's foster care program. After investigation initiated by a whistle-blower's federal civil lawsuit against Maximus, Inc., it was determined that the company had caused CFSA to submit claims to Medicaid for foster child services that had not been provided.

The civil lawsuit was filed by a former Maximus, Inc., division manager under the False Claims Act. A review was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services that determined CFSA could not support 35 percent of its claims. As a result of that investigation, Maximus, Inc., paid $12.15 million, of which $4.93 million went to the whistle-blower.

The parties have now entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, a civil settlement, and a corporate integrity agreement to resolve the matter. Per the agreements, Maximus, Inc., admits responsibility for the actions of their employees, including a former company vice president, and will reimburse the government an additional $30.5 million. Further, the government will not file any criminal charges, but reserves the right to do so if Maximus, Inc., fails to comply with the agreements over the course of the next 24 months.

This sounds like EXACTLY the kind of company Bloomberg and Klein would hand millions of dollars to and it also sounds EXACTLY like the kind of company that would provide a computer system that does less than advertised and makes the work of providing special education services more difficult.

Just like IBM and Wireless Generation with ARIS, SAIC with CityTime and now MAXIMUS with SESIS, the Bloomberg administration has time and again wasted millions of dollars handing out boondoggle contracts to crooked companies and conducted little to no oversight of these companies as the projects have gone over budget, over time, and provided much less than promised.

This latest mess could cost the city tens of millions of dollars in extra expenditures. Under the law, they will have to provide private educations for the thousands of incoming kindergarten students with special needs who have not gotten admitted to a public school because of the SESIS mess.

As the Daily News reported, the city already spends $100 million to send 4,000 students to private school.

If they have to add another 2,500 to that list, you're talking at least $60 million in additional costs.

But the contract with MAXIMUS?

That's got another three years to go with two option periods for additional work.

Nice work if you can get it.


  1. Great post, your ability to find this information and relay it so quickly is of great help. The truth is that Bloomberg & company will never be at fault for this type of malfeasance. Not at least until he is out of office then watch as they destroy his administrations legacy.

  2. Why bother with workers, a computer is 10 x better than a human worker, a computer does not talk back, does not file lawsuit, no pension, or health benefits, and above all a computer costs 100 x less. This trend is stronger than Bloomberg or any other individual, in less than a decade, workers will report to a supercomputer, and a super rich man like Bloomberg controls super computers.

  3. SESIS continues to be another boondoggle. I wonder how many millions that crap cost? Never mind that this program forgot to include the IEP page for summer school accommodations. A few colleagues and my self were busy the other day filling out by hand those summer school accommodation pages to add to the already-done IEP's. Bloomberg is a crook!!!!

  4. Again I ask-when will people finally realize what is happening here?

  5. SESIS is a mess. It excels only at making the quick and simple long and complex because it has no bearing on the realities of Special-Ed evaluation and delivery of services. I speak as a long-time NYC DOE employee. Perhaps most telling: when a colleague of mine finally got through to a help-desk person, and asked if this system was ready to be used when it was released last Spring, he was told: "You know I can't answer that." It is yet another Bloomberg effort to sabotage the public education system so he can turn it into a business. Fortunately, however, everyone -- including parents -- now see him for what he is: this is why his approval rating for how he handled public education is only 25%. So much for your legacy, Mike.