Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols today said she would suspend the state’s approval of a contract that the education department intended to use to purchase the PARCC Common Core exams and launch an investigation into whether it should have been put out for competitive bid.
The move adds another twist to — and intensifies the political infighting
over — Gov. Bobby Jindal’s move
today to pull the state out of PARCC and repeal the Common Core.
State Superintendent John White has said that the governor has no legal authority to pull out
of PARCC or seek new bids on for standardized testing. He said he planned to
proceed with full implementation of Common Core and the PARCC exams.
But tonight Nichols said that White appeared to have no authority to
purchase and administer the PARCC tests using an old consulting contract dating
to 2003. The contract, with the testing company Data Recognition Services, has
been amended multiple times, most recently in 2013, to allow the firm to
continue to administer each new annual iteration of the state’s tests. White
planned to amend that contract again to administer the PARCC Common Core tests,
But she said that introducing the new type of exam, potentially with
different subcontractors, was beyond the scope of the original contract.
White’s plan, she said, appeared to “circumvent procurement laws.”
“If that’s the intention,” Nichols said, “… yeah, we’re going to have a
problem with it.”
Nichols served as Jindal’s deputy chief of staff before taking on her
Nichols said she would send the state education department a letter this
evening demanding that they provide justification for using the existing
contract for the new exams. Once she hears back, she said, her office will
review the contract and the department’s reasoning and determine whether to
allow the contract to proceed or require an entirely new process. In the
meantime, she has suspended payment to the company named in the contract.