PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A state investigation and audit have been ordered in response to KDKA’s investigations into millions of dollars in contracts by Pittsburgh Public Schools.
KDKA found under Pittsburgh School Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, millions of dollars in contracts have been flowing to EdTech companies without competitive bids or any identifiable process. Now, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is demanding answers.
“I want to know specifically, why were these contracts awarded? Why was there no process? What justified the dollar amount?” DePasquale said.
In reaction to KDKA’s report, DePasquale says he will be expanding an already-in-process audit of the district to look at more than 50 EdTech contracts the district has entered into at a cost in excess of $14 million. KDKA’s investigation found no evidence these contracts were bid out competitively or followed any competitive review.
“I have been critical of this type of practice all over Pennsylvania, but this seems to be the largest amount that we’ve seen in my tenure as auditor general,” DePasquale said.
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KDKA reported that many of these contracts went to vendors that Hamlet or top administrators have used in the past or to friends, like Barrington Irving, of the Flying Classroom, with whom they traveled to Cuba.
The school board is doing its own investigation of that trip, and on Friday, they appointed former city Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez to conduct it. But DePasquale wants to see if the district accepted any other free travel or perks from vendors.
“I don’t believe any public official, elected or appointed, should be getting trips paid for by vendors,” he said.
Teachers and staff told KDKA these technology purchases were hindering rather than helping them educate kids and that they felt snowed under by the sheer number of technological tools that have become a distraction.
DePasquale says he will seek input from them on a confidential basis to get to the truth.
“My overriding concern is for the students of the district, the academic performance and the impact on the taxpayers,” he said.
For the past week, Hamlet and his administration have declined to respond to KDKA’s questions about the Cuba trip and these contracts.