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Staying Ahead of the Curve

June 3, 2017 
By NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer

New York, NY - 
Technology is changing the world, and if we’re going to be the greatest city on the planet in this century and the next, then we have to prepare our kids today for the jobs of tomorrow. Our children deserve 21st century classrooms with 21st century tools — taxpayers expect it, our parents demand it, and our children deserve it.

But a new audit from my office found that when it comes to high-speed internet, the Department of Education is living in a dial-up world.

Our recent report on internet connectivity in middle schools revealed that between 2010 and 2014, the Department of Education (DOE) planned to spend nearly $1 billion on tech upgrades that included $347.6 million to increase high-speed internet connectivity and install wireless service in all schools.

Yet, despite the complex installation and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the DOE was unable to provide our office with any project plans, installation timelines, budgets, or metrics for New York City’s middle schools. There are 503 middle schools — yet the DOE didn’t have any strategic planning documents for them. 

That means the installation could have been over-budget, behind schedule, or susceptible to waste and fraud. It’s head-scratching. But more importantly, it has real-world consequences for our schools, teachers, and kids.

Here’s why. As part of the report, our office received responses to a survey from school leaders from nearly 400 middle schools across the five boroughs – and the results were alarming:
    •    Nearly half reported that the internet service in their school did not meet their educational needs;

    •    One-third said they were unsatisfied with the current internet service;

    •    55 percent reported difficulties streaming video during class; and

    •    Nearly two-thirds didn’t know how to request better internet service for their school.

Our children deserve better, because when it comes to our schools, the DOE can’t be at recess. This is about more than government red tape or organizational dysfunction. It’s about right and wrong — because it’s about our kids.

Accountability is non-negotiable — and so is support for our schools, teachers, and children. That’s why we’re going to continue holding the bureaucracy’s feet to the fire to make sure our kids get the resources they deserve.


 

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