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Column: State should dump single-vendor idea

5:34 PM, Feb. 12, 2013  |  Comments
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I was shocked by the Department of Administration's imprudent decision to select Minnesota-based Infinite Campus over Stevens Point-based Skyward as the Statewide Student Information System provider. This decision has prompted an outcry in central Wisconsin, and rightly so. As your state representative, I share your frustrations and hear your concerns as I fight to keep Skyward in Wisconsin.

Together, state Sen. Julie Lassa and I have called on Gov. Scott Walker to delay implementation of the DOA's decision and immediately launch an independent review of the contract's procurement and evaluation process. We have also each separately met with State Superintendent Tony Evers to urge him to review how the single-vendor contract decision was originally made.

Since Walker and the DOA have the authority to discontinue the contract with Infinite Campus, I have called on them to do so and have urged my constituents to do the same. I had hoped to meet with Walker to discuss this further and to ask for his support for Wisconsin jobs, and was disappointed when he denied my request.

I am in close contact with Skyward officials as they navigate the appeals process and I correspond regularly with my constituents, who have written and called with questions and concerns. This foolhardy decision will have long-term consequences for our community and for central Wisconsin families, and I am committed to finding solutions through the legislature.

Last week, Sen. Lassa and I drafted companion bills that would establish a multi-vendor student information system or SIS to replace the single-vendor system that is currently mandatory. Our bill would also permit school districts to use other software vendors, provided their student information systems are compatible with the SIS on certain measures. This would restore local control to the process by allowing school districts to make the most informed decision for their budget and their individualized needs.

Requiring the state to select at least two SIS vendors would provide school districts with a meaningful choice between high-quality vendors, thereby saving state taxpayers significant dollars. Under our proposal, Skyward could continue to operate in our state and would continue to employ hundreds of central Wisconsin residents.

Another option I am pursuing is The Wisconsin First Act, which Lassa has authored and I have co-sponsored. The Wisconsin First Act would include a preference for in-state businesses as one factor in the bidding process for government contracts. This legislation would ensure that Wisconsin considers the importance of creating and sustaining Wisconsin jobs and businesses before sending taxpayer money out of state.

I am also reaching across the aisle to gain support for local jobs. Lassa and I have met with a Republican colleague to ask for his support with these legislative measures, and we will continue to work with legislators from both parties to implore the DOA to reconsider its decision and keep Wisconsin open to Skyward.

This community is inspiring - I am heartened by the outpouring of support for Skyward from families across central Wisconsin. Thank you for joining the fight to protect Wisconsin jobs, and please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.

Katrina Shankland represents the 71st Assembly District in Portage County.

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