ACT, budget board appeal ruling that shortened testing contract

The South Carolina Budget and Control Board and Iowa-based ACT Inc. are appealing a state official's ruling that cut short a five-year contract to the test vendor in an ongoing dispute over what standardized tests students will take next school year.

The Budget and Control Board and ACT, in separate appeals sent last week to the chairman of the state's Procurement Review Panel, asserted that Michael Spicer, the state's chief procurement officer, didn't have the authority to order a one-year implementation of the multiyear contract award and request a new proposal for companies to bid on for next school year.

The state had awarded a $58 million contract in September to ACT, most commonly known for its college entrance exam, for new tests in English and math for grades 3-8 as well as college and career readiness tests for students in the 11th grade.

Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corp., the only other bidder on the contract, filed a complaint in late September alleging the state didn't follow its own procurement procedures correctly.

ACT, in its appeal, argued that Spicer had two choices in addressing Data Recognition's complaint; terminate the contract with ACT or affirm the contract award. Instead Spicer "erroneously ... attempted to fashion a hybrid remedy," according to ACT's appeal.

Spicer, in his Dec. 18 ruling, said that ACT's contract was nonresponsive to several of the state's requirements for a new testing vendor and that state officials erred in how they ranked the company's contract.

With the need to have new standardized tests in place by the spring, Spicer, in his ruling, said it would be best to keep ACT for this school year. Public school students across the state will take the new timed ACT Aspire tests in April.

The Budget and Control Board and ACT have asked for an administrative review and hearings by the Procurement Review Panel. An attorney for the Budget and Control Board said Monday no hearing date has been scheduled.