New York City schools are behind on contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses;

Just 1.5% of businesses serving New York City schools are minority and women-owned, prompting a change in Department of Education policy to enhance diversity and align with standards of the whole city.

Officials described the move as a way to “diversify the entire educational ecosystem” which currently contracts with the often overlooked businesses at one of the lowest rates in the city.

An empty classroom at Yung Wing School PS 124.

One vendor told the Daily News that the city would ask him to submit proposals around midnight, only to discover the next morning that another vendor had been chosen.

“It was clear that the contract had already been awarded and that it was being used to check a box,” said Selma Bartholomew, president of Legacy Pathways, a black and women-owned business focused on closing the math achievement gap and increasing the graduation. rates

“When it happens over and over again for over a decade, you realize this is the culture. This is what I deal with in a very large system,” said Bartholomew, affectionately known as “Dr. B.”

The policy changes, which were unanimously approved at a Wednesday night meeting of the Panel on Educational Policy, codifies a commitment to hire more companies owned by minorities and women.

“We are improving our procurement system to open it up to more businesses, with a clear focus on those owned by women and people of color,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks.

Members of the media interview New York City Department of Education David Banks after he presented his vision for New York City Public Schools at the DOE headquarters on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Manhattan. , New York.

Banks said the amendments will expose providers to the system procurement process, build their financial capacity and cut red tape, while creating a pool of providers that reflects the diversity of their students.

“For many years, the DOE did not comply with administrative code,” said Karine Apollon, the DOE’s director of diversity, whose team was tasked with hiring more people of color throughout the school system, from the classroom to their schools. providers.

Local law, Administrative Code Section 6-129, sets goals for the percentages of the agency’s total annual expenses to be spent on agreements with Black, Asian American, and Hispanic providers, which vary by contract type. Local acquisition laws generally do not apply to the DOE, a spokesperson clarified.

This school year, the DOE expects just over 3% of your spending it will be on non-white and female vendors. That number is up from the previous year, when 2% of spending went to those businesses, and 1.5% in 2020-21, but still well below the diversity of New York City.

“For us, this was really an opportunity to build on a law that already existed,” Apollon said, “and to know that we have models and examples of where this is working” in other agencies.

The changes make it easier for schools to diversify their vendor pool by removing the requirement that principals get three quotes when purchasing supplies and services from minority- and women-owned businesses. They also provide a point of preference for your products during the evaluation process.

Apollon told The News the amendments will “help level the playing field” and reach children, who may benefit from new services like language resources or culturally responsive food from vendors. He added that students can also see themselves in business women or salespeople of color and strive to be like them.

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“It is important that we open the doors to those providers,” he said.