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In Case You’ve Never Seen a “Wired” RFP

Here's a classic:

Announcement: Arizona Government Education Fund (contract with federally-chartered national veterans’ organizations that have at least fifty years of experience providing high school civics education courses) Due January 4 (Dec 17) Arizona Department of Education.

Their Description: In accordance with A.R.S. § 41-2534, competitive sealed proposals for the materials or services specified will be received by the Arizona Department of Education’s Contracts Management Unit at the above specified location until the time and date cited....

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) seeks to contract with federally-chartered national veterans’ organizations that have at least fifty years of experience providing high school civics education courses. This service shall provide for annual, one-week high school civics courses that focus on state government. The courses shall be conducted on the campuses of public and/or private postsecondary institutions in this state.

The Contractor shall:

A. Provide high school civics education courses by an instructor(s) that has/have experience and knowledge in
the government of Arizona that:

1) Shall focus on state government;
2) Shall align to the Arizona Articulated Social Studies Standard

3) shall provide a one week course annually to all accepted applicants;

4) Shall conduct all courses on the campuses of public and/or private postsecondary institutions in the state of Arizona.

B. Provide information concerning the high school civics education courses that shall include:

1) An ADE approved syllabus of course content showing alignment to the Arizona Academic Standards;

2) a listing of the instructors and identification of their qualifications to teach Arizona government.

C. The contractor shall provide evidence of completed civics education courses by submitting to the ADE Social Studies Specialist, by August 30th of each year, an annual written report that shall include:

1) Dates and locations of courses;

2) records documenting the total number of students served;

3) screening criteria utilized for determining accepted participants;

4) syllabus of course content;
5) documentation of instructor (s) qualifications and

6) course evaluations which shall include input from participants.

My Thoughts: It would be hard to find a better example of an RFP supposedly intended for competitive bidding, that is actually meant for a specific organization. Could this contract possibly be in the best interests of students, let alone taxpayers?

The topic - high school civics education focused on one state’s government - is about as generic as one can get. The requirement that the course be one-week long and presented at institutions of higher learning is more of a challenge, but hardly unique.

Why this work can only be done by a national veterans organization with 50 year’s experience in high school civics is beyond me. Nonprofit or for profit, for five dollars or five million, a fifty-year business relationship with the state defines the kind of activity needs to be subjected to real competition.

Apparently the purchasing office decided the work could not be justified as a sole source contract, and so constructed this erstaz competition. But if public education’s procurement culture is prepared to put this obvious fiction into the public record, what sleights of hand constitute business as usual every day?

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