The Hunt for $20 Million

In the deep recesses of DCPS’s FY17 capital budget, schools activist Peter MacPherson found something that seemed odd, which he shared last week with both the DC attorney general, Karl Racine, and the DC auditor, Kathy Patterson: $20 million for a student tracking database that costs $2 million, tops.

In a letter to Patterson, MacPherson expressed concern that the funding, spread over 6 years in the DCPS FY17 capital budget, appears to be set aside for something other than the database.

According to information MacPherson obtained via FOIA from DCPS, the database maker, Follett, gave an estimate for a total price for the database of $2.3 million over several years (set up = $459K; year 1 = $675K; year 2 = $614K; year 3 = $596K).

Adding to the potential weirdness is that DCPS’s FY15 capital budget had already allocated $2 million for the database. Then, DCPS’s FY16 capital budget allocated another $2.5 million for it, with the estimated full-funding cost at that time rising to $6.5 million.

That’s a lot of money for something that even its maker is saying isn’t needed.

MacPherson notes that it’s the kind of money that could provide an operating budget for five DCPS middle schools for one year.

It’s also the sort of money that could fully renovate a small, decrepit elementary school. (Not that we don’t have any of those.)

And it’s the sort of money that could buy a computer for every DCPS teacher for the next 6 years.

Late last week, the attorney general’s office responded, saying that it is working with the council education committee to elucidate this expenditure with DCPS. Stay tuned.

[Late-breaking note on 5/31, 3:30 pm: Kathy Patterson, our city auditor, just released a report on the (unbelievable and non-publicly vetted) cost escalations for the Duke Ellington HS renovation. The press release includes Patterson’s understated conclusion that “our school modernization program has had little discipline to date.” Hmm . . . ya think?]

One thought on “The Hunt for $20 Million

  1. wow jaw dropping stuff here. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that DCPS has a facilities management office anymore, so the management of the project falls solely with the contractor. Not much incentive there to keep costs down.


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