Public Relations

Daily Bread for 12.17.23: The Empty Case Against School-District Competitive Bidding

 Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 43. Sunrise is 7:20 and sunset 4:22 for 9h 02m 09s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 26.4% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1903, the Wright brothers make the first controlled powered, heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

By John T. Daniels – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppprs.00626.

Corrinne Hess reports Wisconsin school districts would have to comply with competitive bidding requirements under new proposal (‘Wisconsin is only one of three states that doesn’t require schools to go out for bid on construction projects’):

School districts in Wisconsin would have to comply with competitive bidding requirements for construction projects costing more than $150,000 under a new legislative proposal.

Wisconsin is one of only three states that allows a project of any size to be awarded on a no-bid basis, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Municipalities, meanwhile, have to seek a competitive bid for any project over $25,000. The same proposed legislation would increase that threshold for municipalities to $50,000.  

During a public hearing Thursday before the Assembly Committee on Local Government, Chris Kulow, government relations director for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, testified against the bill. He argued that requiring a competitive bidding process would take away local control.

Kulow said most school boards are already using competitive bidding. He said having to choose the lowest bidder could mean having to sacrifice the best quality. 

“Currently, districts that have long-standing relationships with local contractors have the opportunity to work with them to negotiate deals that include spending resources locally, keeping those dollars in the community,” Kulow said. “They result in the hiring of parents whose children attend the schools. They want to do a good job, and they’re less likely to ask for extra charges.”  

All school boards, not merely most, should use competitive bidding for large projects. Kulow’s argument about districts with long-standing relationships with local contractors is unsupported by his testimony. He’s telling a story about local, but his story offers not measurement but instead only unsubstantiated-yet-beguiling claims: “spending resources locally,” “dollars in the community,” “hiring of parents whose children attend the schools,” etc. 

Sounds great, right? How often, how much, how many?

Kulow — who asserted his points as a representative of educational boards — offered in his testimony no evidence whatever. Not a shred. See testimony of Chris Kulow, Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Local Government, 12.14.23, video @ 1:17:23. A former superintendent, now part of the school board association’s staff, followed Kulow’s presentation with his own singular experiences in one school district.     

Honest to goodness. A knowledgeable or educated person should expect more than this. A student who turned in a term paper so vacuous would deserve a poor grade (or a chance at a re-write); an adult representative of school boards doing the equivalent deserves the intellectual scorn of his fellow Wisconsinites. Our millions of fellow Wisconsin adults did not, each of them, fall off of turnip trucks yesterday. 

These men represent school boards; many more men and women are on school boards. There are thousands of superintendents and other administrators in over four hundred school districts in this state. Anyone — any single one — who was graduated from high school, college, or a graduate program with a presentation as light as Kulow’s either learned too little or has forgotten too much. 

Those who wish to argue against required competitive bidding — a practice adopted in 47 of 50 states — need to do better than this. 

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