I have a story up about the growing pressure on the Department of Education to change the way it gives out contracts.
One of the main defenses school officials give is that the city rules that govern contracts for all other agencies, from the NYPD to the parks department, are just too cumbersome for the school system, which needs to have the chance to either cut off a contract at a moment’s notice — or hand one away with extreme speed:
David Ross, the department’s head of contracting, told City Council members Wednesday that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein awarded Alvarez & Marsal the contract without any competitive bidding because he felt a time crunch. The chancellor had an interest in completely making extensive changes to the school system and operations, Ross said. It was felt that it was just not practical or possible to do an RFP or competitive process and make the reforms and changes that were needed in the schools. He said that Alvarez & Marsal had the advantage because they had already begun working with the school system under a contract with the Fund for Public Schools, which used private philanthropic donations to start off work with the firm. They were already there. They had done a lot of the work, Ross said. So the inertia behind them was already very significant.