The city Department of Education left thousands of students waiting for months to receive pricy iPads for remote learning because of the agency’s record-keeping failures, according to a report by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
“The DOE had a responsibility to provide remote learning devices to hundreds of thousands of students, but our audit shows the agency did not have consistent protocols in place to ensure that devices were distributed when they were needed most,” Stringer said Wednesday in a press release.
“Even one child falling behind in schoolwork because of these errors is unacceptable.”
As many New York City public school students learned remotely for much of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Education says it bought 500,000 $897 Apple remote learning devices during the pandemic. But many of those iPads were not delivered to students in a timely manner.
For example, as of March 25, 19,425 requests for tablets from students were still “under review” and “unresolved, the audit showed. About 16,000 of these requests dated back to 2020, according to the audit.
Additionally, the review found 3,045 students had been mistakenly sent more than one remote learning device.
“DOE does not have an ongoing process for tracking and reconciling requests for devices and devices that have been distributed,” the audit, released Wednesday, said.
The report found 19,425 “under review” or “unresolved” requests for iPads from students in March.
The comptroller’s audit recommended that the DOE create a “central tracking system” for remote learning devices and that the ones that were “shipped to students in error” are given back to the department.
A city education department rep said the comptroller’s findings are predicated on “outdated information,” and that the “unresolved” orders in the audit had been rectified.
“This is an audit in search of a problem based on outdated information. We did what no other school district was able to do – distributing half a million devices to students in need during a pandemic,” said DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas.
“The requests identified in the Comptroller’s audit were resolved, there are zero unfulfilled device requests, and we continue to fulfill device requests quickly as needed.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted Stringer’s audit misses the forest for the trees.
“I think one of the issues is when was the information gathered by the comptroller’s team, because the distribution of devices has happened constantly. By the time we got through the whole school year, over half a million devices had been given out,” the mayor said Wednesday morning at his daily press briefing. “Any student who requested one, got one. Sometimes, there were delays in supply, but usually not for long.
“So we’ll look at that point,” he went on, “but I think it’s missing the core point that a vast and historic number of devices were given out for free and constantly.”