Covering Louisiana

Jun 19, 2014 9:46 PM by Dave Fields

Jindal administration addresses second letter to White drawing line in sand

For the second time in two days, Louisiana's lead educator has a new letter in his possession from a division of the Jindal administration drawing a figurative "line in the sand."

According to the new letter sent to Superintendent John White, the scope of the contractual review of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) agreements may expand to include a full review of the contracting process for the firm that subcontracts the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

"I believe it is necessary and appropriate to expand the review mandated by Executive Order No. BJ 2014-7 to include a full review of the contracting process that was utilized for the current DRC contracts and the availability of other potential suppliers," writes Interim Office of Contractual Review (OCR) Director Pamela Bartfay Rice in a letter addressed directly to Superintendent John White and LDOE.

After conducting an initial contractual review of the deal between LDOE and the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) Based on your recent statements, the OCR within the Jindal administration says that "the assertion that PARCC can be included in the existing contract also directly contradicts the justification for sole source used by LDOE for the contract," the letter reads.

The OCR director provided an interpretation of Superintendent White's statements, asserting that there are limitations to the deals between LDOE and DRC.

"LDOE appears to now be asserting that the existing sole source contract with DRC can be utilized to subcontract with another assessment vendor, PARCC, for future common assessments. The DRC sole source contract and its sole source justification indicate that the DRC contract does not include services related to common assessment for 2014-2015, rather, it is limited to assessments and services up to and through the transition tests," Rice wrote.

The letter reminded White that the "Division of Administration (DOA) has suspended approval of and is currently reviewing certain contracts between" LDOE and DRC and that OCR has " identified several areas of concern with respect to these contracts."

The identified areas of concern mentioned in the letter were the following:

"In 2003, LDOE competitively bid and awarded State educational assessment consulting services to DRC. The original contract term was July 2003 to June 2008, and through a series of 12 amendments the contract was extended to 2015 for a total value of over $66.5 million."

"In 2011, LDOE entered into a separate multi-year, sole source, contract with DRC for support services for State education assessment implementation. This contract began on July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2015, and was amended on four separate occasions for a total value of over $48 million."

Rice's letter takes issue with a perceived LDOE contention that its "existing sole source contract with DRC" would allow DRC "to subcontract with another assessment vendor, PARCC, for future common assessments." Rice cites Louisiana law that she says prohibits the use of "multiple vendors" to perform accomplish an identical task.

"The DRC sole source contract and its sole source justification indicate that the DRC contract does not include services related to common assessment for 2014-2015, rather, it is limited to assessments and services up to and through the transition tests. The assertion that PARCC can be included in the existing contract also directly contradicts the justification for sole source used by LDOE for the contract. Sole source designation, as defined by La. R.S. 39:1597 and LAC 34:V.142 (A)(2), can only be made if only one source exists for the services requested by the participating agency. By definition you cannot have multiple vendors capable of providing the same service in a sole source contract," she tells White.

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