A state contract review board says the Mississippi department of education failed to follow the law when it tried to buy an assessment that would measure the skills and abilities of special needs students. Education officials say Mississippi could be in violation of federal guidelines if the state does not obtain an assessment by January.
The Personal Service Contract Review Board voted unanimously this week to reject a one million dollar a year agreement because the contract did not require any legal disputes to be resolved in Mississippi courts under Mississippi law. State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says surprised by the decision.
"I find that interesting that that's their answer because the A.G.'s Office sent them an email mid-November assuring them that this would not be an issue." says Wright. "So more than the A.G. weighing in, I don't know what else we could have done. That's the reason we asked the A.G. opinion, and the A.G. weighed in."
In a statement the review board says waving the provision would have resulted in MDE entering into a contract that would violate state procurement laws and place taxpayers at risk. Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says the Department is moving forward with changes to the contract because if they don't the lack of an assessment could place Mississippi in violation with federal guidelines.
"The only recourse that we have now would be to one, take them to court, and two, would be to come back and revise the contract because we have to start testing children in January." Wright says. "So that's what we're doing now is revising the contract in order to be able to the assessment in place by January."
This is the second time in recent history that the contract review board has rejected an important education contract. In September, education officials withdrew an eight million dollar contract with another test publisher after board staff said they would recommend rejection.