Wisconsin company to appeal losing $15M contract

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin company that lost out on a $15 million contract to run a student information system in the state's schools planned to file an appeal Friday, arguing that the process was flawed and should be reopened.

Skyward Inc., of Stevens Point, launched a very public and high-profile campaign after the state announced on Feb. 1 that the contract was going to Infinite Campus of Blaine, Minn. Skyward ran full-page advertisements in newspapers across the state Sunday and Tuesday saying it will have to leave the state if it doesn't get the contract.

The ad listed the 220 Wisconsin school districts that Skyward already serves and urged people to contact Gov. Scott Walker and the state Department of Public Instruction.

Also this week, three Democrats and one Republican in the state Legislature introduced a bill that would allow for more than one company to provide the service to schools, meaning Skyward could continue to operate in Wisconsin.

The new data tracking system is designed to make it easier for DPI to track information and for districts to collect and share information about students, including academic performance and demographic information.

Moving to a single statewide system is expected to save local school districts millions of dollars as they no longer have to run their own systems to track everything from students' grades to their health records.

Skyward currently serves more than half of Wisconsin's schools with management software to track grades, attendance and other information.

Switching to Infinite Campus would "place an additional and major implementation expense on 90 percent of Wisconsin school districts, and ultimately the Wisconsin taxpayer," Skyward said when announcing its intention to appeal.

Friday was the deadline for Skyward to file its appeal with DPI, which pushed for having a single company provide the service statewide. That decision was approved by the Legislature's Republican-controlled budget committee in 2011, despite concerns then that such a move could put Skyward at a disadvantage.

In a move designed to help the Wisconsin company, Walker's economic development agency in March offered it $12 million in tax breaks contingent upon it winning the contract. That offer was rescinded a day before bids were due in June under concerns that it was inappropriate.

Walker's administration then brought in Cari Anne Renlund, an attorney for former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, to observe the bid process moving forward. She released a report finding no fault with the process that led to Infinite Campus winning the contract.

That hasn't appeased Skyward or its backers.

Skyward said that its bid was actually $2.6 million less per year than Infinite Campus'. Skyward also said that implementation costs identified by DPI, which are the responsibility of each school district, were not considered in the evaluation.

More details were expected to be released in the appeal.

Infinite Campus currently provides software to about 10 percent of Wisconsin districts. The company says on its website that it provides statewide data-management software for five other states and has contracts with individual districts in 43 states.

Skyward employs about 270 people statewide, with most of them at its Stevens Point headquarters. It has about 385 employees nationwide.

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