Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office arranged for a nonprofit fund to loan $130 thousand to West Harlem Community Organization, the funds were part of $1.36 million used for three other private pre-kindergarten programs who did not get city contracts.
Now it wants to use taxpayer money to repay the loans to the Harlem school and the three others (Church Avenue Day Care, B’Above WorldWide Institute and Footsteps Childcare).
Education watchdogs say the mayor used procedures that guard against waste and abuse by asking the Fund for the City of New York to finance the faulty pre-K vendors.
“It’s like using a slush fund to avoid their own procurement rules,” said Patrick Sullivan, a former member of the Panel for Educational Policy, which votes on Department of Education contracts.
The moves come amid charges that the mayor created another nonprofit, Campaign for One New York, as a political slush fund to finance his agenda. In a probe revealed Friday, the state Board of Elections found that de Blasio and his top aides used the nonprofit to illegally raise money for fellow Democrats.
The 50-year-old Fund for the City of New York created an interest-free-loan program in 1976 to provide cash to nonprofits waiting for money from approved government contracts. In this case, the city gave a green light for pre-K programs to accept kids last school year despite problems including tax evasion, misspending public funds and failure to hire sufficient qualified staff — a move Sullivan called “irresponsible.”
Other critics agreed.
“It puts the taxpayers’ money at risk and it puts vulnerable children at risk,” said Leonie Haimson, an education advocate with Class Size Matters and a DOE budget watchdog.
In a rush to expand de Blasio’s signature Pre-K for All initiative in 2014-15, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services asked the Fund for the City of New York to give “bridge loans” to the four vendors to pay teachers and other expenses pending the background stamp of approval.
The DOE has since dropped all four pre-K providers. Now it plans to ask the city Comptroller’s Office to retroactively approve contracts with the vendors so taxpayer money can repay the Fund for the City of New York for its bridge loans.
Experts called the unusual request an end-run around the rules.
“We will review these contracts when they are submitted,” said comptroller spokesman Eric Sumberg.
The DOE says taxpayers should foot the bill even though it found the vendors “nonresponsible” and lacking the required integrity to win contracts.
All pre-K providers undergo a “rigorous review process” and strict oversight, said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness, adding that performance or safety problems can result in immediate suspension or eventual termination.
“All families can rest assured their child is in a safe and supportive learning environment,” Holness said.
Edited via source