JFC approves motion prohibiting single-vendor student info. system

MADISON (WITI) -- The Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday, May 29th approved a motion authored by Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) prohibiting the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from implementing a single-vendor student information system (SIS) at a cost of $18,421,600.  Senator Lazich’s motion allows school districts to maintain their current vendors or other SIS compliant vendors, rather than a single state-mandated vendor.

FOX6 News recently covered the controversy over the DPI's decision to select a single-vendor to serve all Wisconsin school districts. The vendor chosen happened to be a Minnesota-based company and a competitor to a Wisconsin (Stevens Point based) company currently providing the service for several Wisconsin school districts.

Skyward filed a formal appeal with the Wisconsin Department of Administration after Skyward lost a contract with schools in the state of Wisconsin -- after officials decided to open the contract to other vendors, and ultimately selected Skyward's competitor (a Minnesota-based company) as a single school software vendor for the state.

Currently, more than half of Wisconsin school districts use Skyward software, as do 1,400 other school districts in 18 states and five other countries.

Skyward's CEO Jim King says he is considering moving the company out of Wisconsin to Texas -- due to the loss of the contract with Wisconsin schools.

"We've sold our software in China, we've sold it in Argentina. Isn't it ironic we can't sell it in Wisconsin?" King said.

Currently, each school district can find the best software for itself. However, in 2011, state officials changed that -- wanting to come up with a way for all of Wisconsin's public schools to have a uniform standard of collecting data.

"The Legislature and the governor with my support said in order to create the best efficiency and the best data system in the state of Wisconsin, we need to have a single vendor, go out and get a bid," State Superintendent Tony Evers said.

The theory was: the only way to measure academic achievement across the state was to have uniform reports from all of the school districts.

"It was really just to try to have a system that the state DepDepartment of Public Instruction (DPI) had to make an apples-to-apples comparison of student achievement across the state," Gov. Scott Walker said.

To achieve that, the state DPI, led by IT specialist Kurt Kiefer believed there needed to be just one student information system, and it would be awarded in a "winner-takes-all" kind of competition -- a request for proposal, known by the acronym "RFP."

Ultimately, a company called Infinite Campus, based in Minnesota was selected as the state's vendor.

In a statement released earlier this month, Skyward officials said: “In accordance with the defined appeal process according to Administrative Code and Request for Proposal for the Wisconsin Statewide Student Information System (SSIS), Skyward has filed its appeal with the Department of Administration (DOA). Skyward continues to stand behind its previous statements that the SSIS evaluation was a flawed and unfair process, and the appeal calls for a just and impartial evaluation of this decision. Through an open records request of communication within the DPI, Skyward obtained documents that deepened the concern of this bias and the disconcerting behavior that occurred throughout the RFP process. These documents suggest that the Assistant State Superintendent involved in the selection acted unjustly throughout the process and with prejudice against Skyward. The company firmly believes it can offer Wisconsin schools and districts a dramatic cost savings, and is concerned by DPI’s inability to provide a clear explanation of the Market-Basket calculations utilized to evaluate the costs that led the committee to favor the selected vendor.

The company remains eager for a full examination of the entire process, from the development of the RFP through the creation of the scoring rubric and the cost analysis. If necessary following the appeal, Skyward will examine all possible legal options. A complete copy of Skyward’s appeal with supporting documents can be found at www.skyward.com/doa-appeal.”

Additionally, Skyward officials say: “Skyward is grateful for the outpouring of support it continues to receive from local, state and federal lawmakers. The company is also encouraged and thankful for the tremendous support from the community and school district leaders, educators and parents in Wisconsin. Skyward also is grateful for the strong support it has received from numerous businesses across the state. Skyward remains committed to delivering comprehensive support and training, a smooth implementation process and powerful data management solutions that exceed schools’ evolving needs. Throughout the appeal process, Skyward will continue to proudly serve 50 percent of Wisconsin school districts with its student information system, and more than 80 percent of districts in the state that use its school business management software.”

The Joint Finance Committee approved the motion prohibiting the implementation of a single-vendor by 14-2. The entire Assembly and Senate will have to pass this at some point in June.