October 2011 Issue
September 21, 2011

SED's no-bid contract rejected

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has nixed a $27 million no-bid deal that would have given publisher Rupert Murdoch's company the lucrative state contract for crunching student test data.

NYSUT raised serious concerns during the comptroller's review process, resulting in the contract being rejected. NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and others pointed out that the publishing billionaire is embroiled in charges of privacy violations and phone hacking in England. NYSUT first raised concerns with a press release in early June after the New York Daily News reported the contract was being awarded outside the normal bidding process and just weeks after News Corp. brought former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein on board.

In a letter to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Education Commissioner John King, NYSUT noted that many other vendors were interested in working on the initiative.

"We believe the normal procedures should be used to identify a vendor in an open and transparent way that will help to regain the confidence of parents and educators," the letter said.

The $27 mililion contract called for Wireless Generation to build an "Education Data Portal" that would enable schools and teachers to track and use student test scores. The data system is part of the state's federally funded Race to the Top (RTTT) reform plan.

New York's RTTT application said a pilot data program would be in place by this school year to begin collecting information in some of the state's school districts; the system was scheduled for wide release in Oct. 2012. By 2013-14, the portal was to serve 90 percent of the state.

An SED spokesman said the agency is reviewing its options to move forward on the data system. Wireless Generation has not said if the company will reapply.

NYSUT remains committed to ensuring New York has a secure system that would benefit students and schools.