Infinite Campus head decries reversal on SkywardMADISON, Wis. (AP) — Faced with losing an $80 million contract after lawmakers reversed course to help a Wisconsin company, the head of a Minnesota firm on the short end of the deal came to the Capitol on Thursday to fight back. But he said no one was listening.
By: SCOTT BAUER,Associated Press, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Faced with losing an $80 million contract after lawmakers reversed course to help a Wisconsin company, the head of a Minnesota firm on the short end of the deal came to the Capitol on Thursday to fight back. But he said no one was listening.
Infinite Campus leader Charlie Kratsch, in an interview Thursday, accused Skyward Inc. of falsely claiming it would leave Wisconsin if it didn't win the contract to run a new student information system. Infinite Campus was awarded the bid in February by Gov. Scott Walker's administration, and an appeal from Stevens Point-based Skyward is pending.
"It's a red herring," Kratsch said of Skyward's threat to leave Wisconsin. "Nothing in this procurement says Skyward, if they lose, has to leave the state."
Kratsch accused Skyward of using its workers as "hostages or pawns in this negotiation."
"As a small businessman, that disgusts me," he said.
Skyward vice president Ray Ackerlund strongly disputed Kratsch's claims. In an email, he said: "I find it outrageous for him to question our ethics and his assertion is completely false."
After losing the bid, Skyward launched an intense public relations and legislative lobbying effort. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers got on board. And on Wednesday, the Legislature's budget-writing committee voted 14-2 to pull funding for the project.
The new statewide system was designed to make it easier for the state Department of Public Instruction to track information and for districts to collect and share information about students, including academic performance and demographic information. The move to a single statewide system was expected to save school districts millions of dollars, as they no longer would have to run their own systems to track student data including grades and health records.
The Joint Finance Committee just two years ago agreed to the single company approach. The reversal made Wednesday would allow Skyward to keep its software in the 220 districts it currently serves, instead of requiring those districts and all others in the state to use Infinite Campus. The contract for a single provider was estimated to be worth between $60 million and $80 million over 10 years.
"The vote yesterday was not just about Skyward, but a clear representation of the concerns that have grown over a single vendor approach and the negative impact on Wisconsin school districts and multiple other vendors in Wisconsin," Ackerlund said.
Kratsch saw it differently.
"This is absolutely about money," Kratsch said. "It's not about jobs in Stevens Point. It's about money. This was a huge prize."
The change benefiting Skyward that was made to the state budget must also pass the Senate and Assembly, and be approved by Walker, before taking effect. Walker has line-item veto power and could choose to remove the change.
Walker spokesman Tom Evenson declined to comment. Walker is in a delicate position given that his Department of Administration is currently reviewing the Skyward appeal.
"We won on procurement," Kratsch said. "Skyward won on politics. The governor has the tiebreaker."
The decision for Walker will be whether he takes the threat of Skyward leaving the state seriously, or decides to stick by the state's bid process that awarded the contract to Infinite Campus, Kratsch said.
"He's going to do what he's going to do," Kratsch said. "I don't have the kind of leverage Skyward has to twist his arm. I'm not going to move the company to Madison."