Sen. Davis Warns More Accountability Needed for State's $462M Testing Contract
AUSTIN — In the wake of an audit revealing major shortcomings with the Texas Education Agency's student testing process, Senator Wendy Davis today urged more accountability and openness with the state's nearly half-billion dollar contract with Pearson Education.
"The findings of lax contract monitoring by the state audit are disturbing," said Sen. Wendy Davis. "The Texas Education Agency must do a better job of accounting for the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars it spends on student testing or steps will be taken to ensure that it does."
According to the State Auditor's Office, the Texas Education Agency "lacks adequate processes for monitoring the contract." The State Auditor further stated that the, "Agency does not comply with regulations related to disclosing whether vendor employees formerly worked for the Agency."
Pearson has enjoyed near-monopoly status with the state throughout the almost 20 years it's held the testing contract. During that period, Pearson managed to negotiate ever more lucrative contracts. At the same time, the company has come under criticism in other states for committing testing errors that have prevented hundreds of students from enrollment in talented and gifted programs, according to reports.
"Thanks to the effort by the legislature during the session to highlight the problems surrounding this contract, we've already made much-needed progress at TEA," said Davis. "The state audit is the first step toward restoring accountability at the Agency. Texas taxpayers must know they're getting their money's worth out of these contracts. Just as important, parents must be certain their children are being accurately tested."
During the 83rd Regular Legislative Session, Sen. Davis sponsored Senate Bill 1308, to require Texas Education Agency to adopt a process for monitoring its assessment contract, and allow the Agency to audit the contract. While SB 1308 did not pass, Sen. Davis succeeded in amending House Bill 1675 to require the Sunset Advisory Commission to evaluate TEA's contracting procedures and report to the Legislature for action next session.