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Dinniman: Auditor General to Look at Spending, Lack of Transparency on Keystone Exams
WEST CHESTER (June 4, 2018) – State Senator Andy Dinniman today welcomed news that Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will consider questions regarding the transparency of state contracts related to standardized testing and the Keystone Exams.
“Pennsylvania is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing and the Keystone Exams, and in too many cases it isn’t even clear exactly what we’re paying for,” Dinniman said. “I thank the Auditor General for working to take a closer look at and review this issue. There is no question that taxpayers have a right to be able to access clear and accurate information on how and why state dollars are being spent and what exactly we are getting in return.”
Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said he hoped DePasquale’s efforts would help both the public and legislative leaders get some clear answers regarding the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s ongoing spending related to standardized testing and the Keystones. He also thanked Senator John Eichelberger, Majority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, for his support of this issue
In a statement issued Thursday, DePasquale said, “I am very concerned when I hear questions raised about government agencies not being open and transparent about how taxpayer dollars are spent. I applaud Senators Eichelberger and Dinniman for raising issues about how standardized testing contracts have been handled. These contracts represent large expenditures that divert funding for classroom education.
Far too often, we find problems with state contracts that do not deliver the products and services as promised and do not adequately protect the interests of taxpayers who are footing the bill.
I am working with my team to find the best way to review this issue and identify ways to improve transparency and accountability when it comes to state contracts.”
Over the past decade, Pennsylvania and local school districts have either already spent or awarded contracts totaling more than $1.3 billion for standardized testing. In fact, one company alone, Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) of Minnesota, has been awarded more than $741 million in testing contracts. In addition, two of the three DRC contracts were given sole source no-bid extensions.
In the 2015-16 fiscal year and the first half of the 2016-17 fiscal year alone, DRC received more than $88 million.
A variety of other companies involved in the assessment and measuring of test scores also received millions of dollars in state expenditures during that same 18-month period. In fact, three companies alone received a total of $19.6 million.
Dinniman said that when he and his staff began investigating the bid and contract procurement process related to standardized testing and the Keystone exams, they were both surprised and disappointed by the Department of Education’s lack of transparency and accountability.
“It’s galling. Necessary documentation from the Pennsylvania Department of Education appears to be missing or muddled, including contract amendments, information on how the contracts are scored and selected, an adequate explanation of why certain contracts were canceled and shifted to other vendors, and a justification for contracts that appear to be duplicative,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman has long been a vocal opponent of the excessive and expensive Keystone Exams, which take up to ten days of time away from classroom instruction.
“Just think what $1.3 million could have done if it were put into the classroom where real learning takes place,” Dinniman said.