Sen. Phil Berger won’t launch legislative review of Istation contract

Senate leader Phil Berger

Senate leader Phil Berger has declined to launch a legislative review into Superintendent Mark Johnson’s controversial decision to award the state’s K-3 reading assessment contract to Istation.

Last week, a group of Senate Democrats asked Berger, a Republican from Rockingham, to form a Senate Select Committee to investigate the three-year, $8.3 million contract award.

The senators are concerned Johnson ignored “expert opinion” in awarding the contract to Istation when evaluation committees recommended the Amplify’s mClass reading assessment tool previously used by the state.

Berger responded Tuesday that it’s too early in the process for a Senate investigation.

“It is my understanding that an active protest of the contract decision is currently underway and has not concluded,” Berger wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats. “As current law and regulation outlines a clear process, and it appears that process is being followed, it is my opinion that legislative intervention is not appropriate at this time.”

The Request For Proposal (RFP) for the reading assessment tool is a State Department of Public Instruction information technology contract so the procurement process falls under the guideline of the N.C. Department of Information Technology, which has a formal protest process.

Berger said he’d be willing to work with Senate leaders to answer any remaining questions about the contract after Amplify’s protest runs its course.

Johnson ruled last week that the procurement process was “fair” and “objective.” He said Istation was chosen because it’s the best diagnostic tool for the state.

In response, Amplify CEO Larry Berger said Amplify will “take the next steps in the protest process and remain open to constructive solutions that work for North Carolina educators and students.”

Berger issued this statement Monday:

“By law, there are 60 days to appeal the decision to DIT [state Department of Information Technology], though we hope that the review process will be expedited, given that we are in the midst of back to school,” Berger said in a statement Monday. “We are considering our options.”

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