The city is dragging its feet sending hundreds of pre-kindergarten contracts for an independent vetting, potentially putting the city’s successful pre-K rollout at risk, Comptroller Scott Stringer said on Wednesday.
Stringer, whose office must review all city contracts, raised the red flag just eight days before the start of school. He said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office has sent him just 141 of more than 500 pre-K contracts, which went to vendors that still need to be vetted for fraud, corruption, and safety issues.
“Universal pre-K holds the promise of transforming our city’s educational process, which is why we have to get it right,” Stringer said in a statement. “But we cannot sacrifice safety in the name of expediency.”
The city awarded the contracts this summer with $300 million in state funds to support de Blasio’s plans, which include an expansion of full-day pre-K seats to 50,000, from 20,000 last year. Without enough space inside public schools to fit most of the expansion, de Blasio has partnered with community-based and religious organizations to help him meet his ambitious goal. Over 1,000 pre-K sites had racked up safety and health violations over the past five years, though city officials announced last week that they’d reduced that number to under 100.
Stringer’s office said that “significant problems” were uncovered in their review of some of the contracts that it had received. One vendor used to employ a person charged with child pornography, though the mayor’s office later showed proof that the problem was addressed.
Stringer stopped short of criticizing de Blasio, however. A spokesperson for the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment.