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Chicago Public Schools had $23 million in lost/stolen technology in 2021-2022

‘Not clear there was an expectation for students to return the devices’

The Chicago Public Schools recently reported it’s in the hole for some $23 million in lost or stolen technology during the pandemic school year of 2021-2022.

The CPS Office of Inspector General noted there were over 77,000 lost/stolen devices that year, an “unacceptably high percentage,” FOX-32 reports.

Twenty-seven percent of devices specifically assigned to students are included in that figure.

Thirty-six schools in the district had a 100 percent lost/stolen rate, and students (and staff) across the district faced “no consequences” for “losing” devices.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, CPS Inspector General William Fletcher said this was because “it was not clear there was an expectation for students to return the devices.”

Fletcher said “There are just black holes in terms of where devices were,” and added that “every school seemed to do audits differently and no one was held accountable.”

The OIG report noted the district “rarely used” procedures for which it had spent $2.6 million in order to recover lost/stolen technology. CPS “dived headlong out of the tech dark ages without strong tracking systems” and did not adequately upgrade them.

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Following the OIG recommendations, the district managed to recover just over 15 percent of the vanished tech. But, unfortunately, it appears not much changed in the following year (2022-2023), the Sun-Times notes.

From the story:

Among other issues, WBEZ/Chalkbeat found the school district depends on schools to take a regular inventory, but the process is time-consuming and only 35% of Chicago’s 500 district-run schools have a technology coordinator. The OIG report notes that many of the schools without technology coordinators hire outside vendors to complete the inventory, but these vendors often are not properly trained and hastily mark devices as lost/stolen without looking for them.

As noted by the inspector general report and WBEZ/Chalkbeat, this flawed inventory process has serious implications. One principal told WBEZ/Chalkbeat that CPS sent him 100 computers he didn’t need, but the principal admitted he didn’t complete the inventory because, with all his other work, he did not have time.

Not only can an incorrect listing cause CPS to make unnecessary purchases, it also “increases the risk that the asset will eventually become permanently lost or stolen. This is a dangerous practice,” the inspector general said.

The district responded to the report by saying it would implement all of Fletcher’s recommendations “to some degree,” noting it has to determine “the best way to hold students accountable without overburdening families that are at or near poverty level.”

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