Jindal admin cuts education agency’s contract cap

The Jindal administration has told state Superintendent of Education John White that his agency now faces tougher rules for getting contracts approved.

Under new guidelines, contracts of more than $2,000 will have to first win approval from the Office of Contractual Review. The previous cap was $20,000.

The Advocate reports the order came from the same office currently embroiled in a dispute with White over Common Core tests.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says the contract action was taken because of questions raised during a review on whether the department is following state procurement laws.

For that reason, Nichols said, most any new contract will require OCR clearance.

The directive was sent to White shortly after last Tuesday’s meeting of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on whether educators or state finance officials have the final say on test purchases.

BESE voted last week to hire a special legal counsel on the issue, despite opposition from Jindal administration officials and their allies.

BESE president Chas Roemer denounced the contract action Thursday.

“I am disappointed that the governor would do this,” Roemer said. He said the move is especially troubling since White and Jindal aides are supposed to start talks on how to resolve the fight.

“This whole thing is political,” Roemer said.

Educators have made clear they would adhere to procurement regulations, he said.

BESE officials also got a letter that mandates the same new contract rules as the department.

White could not be reached for comment.

Jindal has vowed to get the state out of Common Core.