July 15, 2015

Judge dismisses PARCC bid-rigging lawsuit

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Compfight cc

A Santa Fe district court judge threw out a challenge to a contract for a controversial standardized test.

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Compfight cc

The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit American Institutes for Research challenged the state’s decision to award a lucrative testing contract to education conglomerate Pearson. The contract, worth an estimated $1 billion over eight years, included writing and administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers’ (PARCC) flagship test.

Although most associate the term with the test, PARCC is a consortium of 12 states and the District of Columbia that were tasked with developing a new standardized test that abides by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The PARCC test is projected to reach up to 10 million students across the consortium over the length of the contract.

Before the contract to write a new test went out to bid, New Mexico’s Public Education Department stepped forward as the entire consortium’s purchasing agent.

Only Pearson, which has ties to state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, submitted a proposal to the bid, and eventually was awarded the contract. But American Institutes for Research filed a protest even before the contract was awarded to Pearson, alleging PARCC’s request for proposal was written to favor just one company.

Specifically, American Institutes for Research argued that the winner of the contract would have had to use Pearson’s online testing system for at least one year.

In her ruling this week, First Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Singleton wrote that American Institutes for Research didn’t have standing to protest the contract because it didn’t submit its own proposal during the bid.

“Appellant does not qualify as a ‘bidder’ or ‘offeror’ because it did not submit a proposal prior to its protest,” Singleton wrote. “Considering the larger statutory framework in which the protest provision appears, there is little evidence that the Legislature intended to provide standing to interested parties who have yet to submit proposals.”

Singleton also wrote that while federal procurement law allows protests from “prospective bidders who meet certain qualifications,” this law isn’t relevant to New Mexico’s procurement code “because the statutory language is slightly different.”

Last year, state Purchasing Agency Larry Maxwell rejected an earlier protest by American Institutes for Research making a similar argument.

American Institutes for Research will not be appealing Singleton’s ruling.

“We disagree with the decision but thank Judge Singleton for hearing our concerns,” Barry Levine, managing director of business development for the nonprofit, told New Mexico Political Report.

Read Singleton’s decision below:

Singleton AIR Decision by New Mexico Political Report