Nearly 2,000 unused computers disappear at Dept. of Education

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- Thousands of computers paid for by taxpayers that public school students were supposed to be using were lost, went missing, or were left unused.

That's what a city report released on Tuesday concluded, and the person who oversaw the audit speculates that the problem his office discovered may be an indication of far larger shortcomings at the Department of Education.

"This is incredibly troubling," said city comptroller Scott Stringer, regarding his investigation of $200 million of computer purchases at New York City public schools.

His audit began at P.S. 168 in the Bronx, where the DOE had reported 10,000 computers in inventory. Investigators from the comptroller's office could account for only 10.

That led the DOE to release a revised list of computer inventory. It showed 9,000 desktops and tablets present at nine different high schools and at Tweed Courthouse, DOE Headquarters.

Contrary to the DOE listing, the comptroller's office found something else at headquarters and elsewhere throughout the public school system.

"At Tweed," said Stringer, "there were 600 computers we couldn't find there."

Auditors also found 1,098 computers listed by the DOE to be unaccounted for. A further, hands on investigation found that 727 more machines could not be found.

"Sounds like a robbery to me," said one public school parent outside P.S. 168, who declined to give his name. The comptroller is not necessarily agreeing with that assessment, but Stringer did find that of the computers that were found by his investigators, 394 of them had never been used. Most were never even removed from their original packaging.

"How do you expect our students to reach the goals of better schools when their computers are locked up?" asked parent Angel Candelaria. The comptroller made a similar point.

"That's what angers me the most," Stringer told PIX11 News. "That means a child in a classroom without the tools they've been promised."

"There are 2,000 DOE locations," Stringer continued. "We looked at ten. There is a problem. ...This is the tip of the iceberg."

The schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, has not commented about the audit, but a deputy chancellor, Kathleen Grimm, defended, in a printed statement, the way that schools keep track of electronic devices. Each school keeps tabs on the electronics it has received.

A DOE spokesperson has also said that it will use the audit to find cost-effective ways to more closely monitor the department's computers.

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