Putting Education Reform To The Test

Legal Challenge Over Florida DOE Contract


A legal challenge is being waged over a contract with the Florida Department of Education. A rejected vendor is protesting DOE’s selection of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) to develop test items and more under the “Florida Interim Assessment Item Bank and Test Platform.” The funding is provided by a Race to the Top grant from the U.S. government.

CTB/McGraw-Hill contends the state’s negotiation team goofed in their assessment of the bids. DOE issued an Invitation to Negotiate and received bids from eight vendors. The bids were narrowed down to five companies, then two. CTB and HMH were the two finalists. Now, the rejected company has filed a formal protest with the state. At issue is a contract worth nearly $37 million for HMH.

The filing with the Division of Administrative Hearings states:

CTB’s substantial interests are affected by the proposed agency action because CTB is a responsive and responsible vendor entitled to award of the subject contract. DOE has proposed to award the contract to HMH instead of CTB even though CTB’s proposed solution is the better value.

In bold letters, CTB contends:

The intended decision to award the contract to HMH is contrary to section 287.057 because HMH does not provide the best value to the state.

The filing goes on to say, “The conclusions of the Award Recommendation Memo are incorrect.” The document points to presumed inaccuracies relayed to members about the price, system architecture, bandwidth, and ownership of items offered in the bidding. It also says that members changed their votes after the inaccurate or misleading information was presented.

CTB says its offer was approximately $3.5 million less than HMH, and comes with thousands more items. Jim Panos, a senior vice president with HMH, disagrees. He told the News Service of Florida that his company’s bid is the “best value to the state, and it’s also best price… In terms of best value, we absolutely have that.”

CTB just filed another request for documents. The company wants the Division of Administrative Hearings to recommend that DOE award the contract to CTB or start the bid process over.


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