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Pridemore campaigns on local school control, questions DPI software decision



PLOVER, WI  (WSAU)  -  The State of Wisconsin choosing Infinite Campus over Stevens Point based Skyward for a single provider statewide student software program has created some unusual political alliances.

Conservative Republican State Representative Don Pridemore is running for State Superintendent.  He favors returning local control to schools and eliminating programs and mandates that put more burden on districts.  He’s also against a state procurement system that supports a single-source monopoly like we have now.  Two of the more liberal state officials are Democrats Katrina Shankland and Julie Lassa from Stevens Point.  They have authored legislation to do away with the single vendor software system, which is allowed by present procurement law.  That bill, if passed, would allow Skyward to compete in a multi-vendor market where the school districts could choose what is best for them.

The state’s decision to choose Infinite Campus is still under appeal.  Skyward based their appeal on what they believe is improper scoring of the companies proposals.  

State Representative and Candidate for State Superintendent Don Pridemore has been critical of his opponent Dr. Tony Evers, and he’s interested to learn if the DPI made mistakes.  “There may have even been some violations in that procurement program, I don’t know, but that’s what I’m trying to find out.  Obviously now that the light has been shined on the subject, they’re going to be very protective of what information they have done so far so it’s one of those things that maybe the only thing we can do is audit the decision and the process and see where it leads.”

When asked about Assembly Bill 60 and it’s companion, Senate Bill 54 which would eliminate a single vendor monopoly for the contract, Pridemore admitted he hasn’t read the bills yet, but expressed interest.  “If that’s exactly what the language says, then it sounds like I would support it.”

Pridemore understands the selection is a political decision, but wonders if Governor Scott Walker will weigh in at some point.  “It seems to me like a political decision.  If the Governor had all of the facts before him, I would think he would give a little bit more credibility and a little bit more preference to a state company, so I’m rather surprised this decision has gotten as far as it has without the Governor’s input.”

Pridemore is puzzled by the contract decision, and is concerned about the possible loss of jobs if nothing is done.  “We are talking about a Wisconsin company with a lot of jobs, and the Governor is very, very concerned about jobs in the state of Wisconsin and he doesn’t want to see jobs disappear, and this decision could very well result in jobs disappearing from the state of Wisconsin.”

In previous interviews with WSAU Radio, Incumbent State Superintendent Tony Evers has supported the single source concept and Governor Scott Walker has chosen to remain neutral as the appeal process runs its course.  Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch says the single source for software was decided by the Legislature on recommendation by the Department of Public Instruction.  Should he need to decide the appeal at the next level, Huebsch says he will have to decide if that specific law was followed. (*)

For now, Assembly Bill 60 has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing chaired by Representative Tyler August.  Senate Bill 54 has been referred to the Committee on Education chaired by Senator Luther Olsen.

Several audience members expressed concern about Senator Olsen’s wife Joan Wade, who is the Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA)  6 Agency Administrator.  CESA agencies serve as sales and support agents for Infinite Campus, which generated questions about possible conflicts of interest and ethics issues.  

This is not the first time Senator Olsen has been in an awkward position working with CESA 6.  Wisconsin Now filed an ethics complaint over Olsen’s support for CESA’s in 2011 concerning the operation of charter schools.


(*) Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch makes this point near the end of the recorded interview found at the embedded link.