Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette continues to do the job of 10 men/women as the lead reporter at the state Capitol — today with a further investigation of a smelly no-bid multimillion dollar education consulting contract straw-bossed by bigshot gubernatorial staffer and former legislator Bill Gossage.
Gossage, an emeritus alumnus of the Good Old Boy Coach and Superintendent Marching and Free Chowder Society, apparently lobbied House Speaker Jeremy Gillam on the merits of this program (Gossage gave Gillam “extra confidence” in the program, the speaker said). It’s just a new-age definition of team learning, says veteran teacher Sen.
And so it was done — a $4 million contract with Solution Tree of Bloomington, Ind., for a “pilot project.” It’s enabled by a little piece of legislation that, one legislator observed, seemed to have been written so that a single outfit would qualify. But that ain’t all. The pilot project is expected to grow to $8.5 million in the next fiscal year.
Note that Education Commissioner Johnny Key was working with Solution Tree before its contract was approved by the legislature (he most likely knew that approval was a mere formality for this well-lubricated deal.) Key also pushed back aggressively when Ed Armstrong, the state procurement director, bravely suggested some other vendors could provide the same sort of consulting and perhaps some competing proposals should be sought. With a gubernatorial deputy chief of staff as godfather and the governor’s hand-picked education czar expressing “frustration” at the holdup, Armstrong got the message.
Great work by Wickline.
Whenever I read a story like this I’m reminded of my drives in the humid evenings through the coastal marshes south of my boyhood home in Louisiana. The decomposition of organic matter was ongoing. It created a persistent unpleasant stench. We called it swamp gas.
It comes with absolute power in a political ecosystem, too.
PS: Do a Google search on Solution Tree and the
Kind of wonder whether a recent Walton-financed junket to New Zealand to visit an education consultant might produce some future programs here.