Legislation Would Revoke DCPS Control Over its Own Contracts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CORRECTION: The previous version of this release cited an incorrect dollar amount for the 36 unauthorized contracts. The contracts are worth in excess of $269 million dollars (not billion). That has been updated in the release below.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The D.C. Council’s Public Works & Operations Committee took D.C. Public Schools officials to task in a hearing Thursday, on legislation that would take away their authority to manage their own procurement process.
Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, D-Ward 1, who chairs the committee, and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson jointly introduced the District of Columbia Public Schools Procurement Authority Amendment Act of 2023 in response to the school system’s failure to send 36 contracts worth in excess of $269 million to the Council for review, as required by law.
“Simply put, this is a blatant and systemic disregard for basic procedures, the law, and the role of the Council, which is entitled and required by law to review these contracts,” Nadeau said.
DCPS is one of a handful of District government agencies with the legal authority to manage their own procurement. Most agencies must go through the Office of Contracting and Procurement. All contracts valued at over $1 million, regardless of agency, must go to the Council for review. The proposed legislation would require the District’s largest school system to shutter its procurement office and run its contracts through the Office of Contracting and Procurement.
DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and Deputy Chancellor Amy Maisterra were sworn under oath and answered questions. The committee also called on Nancy Hapeman, the Interim Director of the Office of Contracting and Procurement.
Three public witnesses spoke at the hearing, including one former DCPS employee who said she was terminated and scapegoated for failures well above her level of seniority.
Nadeau said DCPS’s actions do more than violate regulations:
“Who does this hurt? It hurts students who receive services through these contracts for school lunches, behavioral health services, and special education instruction for students with learning disabilities. It hurts teachers, who rely on technology platforms to teach and execute their curriculum. It affects the employees of vendors who need to be paid for rendering services to the District. Vendors need to pay their employees too.
“When the Council can’t review – or doesn't even know about – big contracts that serve the school community, we can’t do our due-diligence. Who is getting these contracts? Are they qualified to do the work? Is the cost of the services or goods fair? Did they provide quality services the last time DCPS contracted with them? We. Don’t. Know.”