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Cutting a School Contract Down to Size

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By Colbert I. King
Saturday, June 9, 2007

The story of EdBuild, a Washington nonprofit start-up organization that was awarded a $57.6 million sole-source contract by the soon-to-be-out-of-business D.C. Board of Education, continues this week.

To recap: EdBuild was put together 20 months ago by a group of well-wired civic leaders and was funded generously with venture capital, for the purpose of forming a partnership with the superintendent to transform District public schools.

The speed with which EdBuild got off the ground and lined up at the D.C. treasury's door is breathtaking.

Three months after the school board approved a partnership with EdBuild on Dec. 16, 2006 -- and before school Superintendent Clifford Janey finalized contract negotiations with EdBuild last month -- the $57.6 million EdBuild-D.C. Public Schools relationship was included in Mayor Adrian Fenty's proposed 2008 Budget Support Act, which was transmitted to the D.C. Council in March.

The eagle-eyed council chairman, Vincent Gray, spotted the section authorizing a multimillion-dollar contract with a relatively new organization, and he deleted it.

But how did the EdBuild provision get in the act in the first place?

Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso advised me in an e-mail this week that the provision "was submitted by DCPS [D.C. Public Schools] and was included as a courtesy to DCPS, as is the practice with all independent agencies or entities that must be included in the mayor's budget submission." So there.

While Gray was blocking the apparent attempt to fast-track approval of the EdBuild-school partnership, Janey and his staff had their hands full pushing back against the aggressive EdBuild.

Among EdBuild's contractual desires, according to Janey:

ยท Contract funds were to be segregated in a separate escrow account with a third party (not the school system or D.C. government) managing the account, and EdBuild would be able to draw from the account as needed.


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