Better Government Association, Chalkbeat Chicago investigate cost of CPS remote learning purchases

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With Chicago Public School students just days away from the new school year, the Better Government Association and Chalkbeat Chicago looked into how much the district is prepared to pay for the costs and complications that come along with an all-remote learning platforms.

Like school districts across Illinois and the nation, Chicago set out to rapidly build up its technology arsenal under extremely trying circumstances.

"We wanted to take a deep look at where CPS stands compared to some of the bigger districts across Illinois," said John Chase, director of investigations at the Better Government Association.

They found CPS moved a bit slower in purchasing some of these devices, and in some cases the district settled, according to report.

CPS sealed a more than $1.6 million dollar deal with Mark Aistrope's firm, Meeting Tomorrow, to buy used laptops and older-model iPads.

It left some families with slower or malfunctioning devices from its stock.

CPS also signed multimillion-dollar contract with both Apple and CDW-G, which is Chicago's middleman for Dell laptops and Chromebooks, creating inconsistencies.

"There is a wide array of equipment," said Chase. "Some are more prone to malfunctioning and there's inconsistency in how teachers go about teaching because their devices are different."

Chicago school leaders say they are proud of the district's response to the pandemic - and are prepared for an all-virtual start to the coming school year.

"COVID-19 really created nothing short of a perfect storm for us," said Phillip DiBartolo, Chicago's chief information officer, adding, "At the end of the day, I was perfectly satisfied with the effort and level of coordination."

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