The Best Way to Spend $4 Million?


The Best Way to Spend $4 Million?
Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, sponsored a bill that eventually awarded Solution Tree a no-bid contract worth $4 million.

Thank you, Charlotte Douglas. She was among the Arkansas legislators who, at a recent committee meeting, questioned why the state Department of Education had awarded a $4 million no-bid contract to an Indiana company.

Earlier this year, state Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, sponsored a bill requiring the department to develop “professional learning communities for the benefit of public school districts.”

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It so happens that that is exactly what that Indiana company, Solution Tree, does. Douglas, a Republican from Alma, told fellow lawmakers that it seemed as if the language in the law “was manipulated to make sure that we gave it to a certain company,” according to Michael Wickline’s story in the Nov. 12 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Cozart told her she was mistaken.

But it also so happens that 14 Arkansas lawmakers, including Cozart, and a House staff member spent more than $25,000 in taxpayer money to attend Solution Tree conferences over the past two years.

And it also so happens that Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key made it quite clear to state procurement chief Ed Armstrong that “Solution Tree is the only vendor that can deliver the PLC at Work process.”

And so Armstrong authorized the Education Department “to initiate ‘special procurement’ of a contract with Solution Tree” without taking bids.

Maybe developing “professional learning communities” is the best way to improve teachers’ skills. We don’t know. We’re not teachers.

We’re also not legislators. But we — and you, readers — are their bosses and the source of the $4 million awarded for a no-bid contract. We’re not convinced this was the best use of our taxpayer dollars, and we’re certainly not convinced that “special procurement” was the way to spend them.