Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
Mississippi Business Journal says C Spire has the state's best interests at heart:
So, let's get this straight.
There was a bid process for the procurement of the state's telecommunications services. C Spire outbid AT&T by a whopping $32 million.
Now, AT&T is protesting the entire process that it has never had a problem with in the past.
None of that seems to be in dispute.
After multiple requests, Michele Blocker, the Chief Administrative Officer with the Mississippi Department of Technology Services confirmed that recently to the Mississippi Business Journal with the following short, concise statement.
"On December 21, 2017, the MS Department of Information Technology Services (ITS) Board approved several awards relating to the State's procurement of telecommunications services. (More information on this procurement, RFP 5000, can be found at www.its.ms.gov.) One of these awards, Voice and Data Network Services, was made to CSPIRE. Subsequently, AT&T submitted a formal Protest challenging this award pursuant to ITS policies and procedures. This Protest is currently under consideration by the ITS Executive Director."
ITS Executive Director Craig Oregon, however, in trying to fully respect the appeals process, would not comment on the process, the outcome or the protest as it has now been nearly four months since C Spire won the bid.
We get that business is business and AT&T wants to keep the lucrative contract with the state, and we understand C Spire wants to take over what is loosely called the state's land line telecommunication contract.
In a statement to FierceWireless, AT&T defends its position.
"We have an historic commitment to building communications networks to serve Mississippi businesses, residents and government," AT&T explained in a statement to FierceWireless when questioned about the issue. "As a part of the normal contracting and bid process, we filed our concerns with the Department of Information Technology Services regarding the recent statewide technology RFP. While our bid fully met the specific, clearly identified requirements outlined in the RFP, we believe the selected bid does not. We appreciate this review by the department and look forward to their response."
Yet, C Spire has won out in a process that AT&T never thought was problematic until it actually lost.
C Spire has historically been the primary awardee or shared a significant portion of the contract for wireless but last year it was able to participate in the RFP process in which the state ITS selected the Mississippi-based company for most of the services to be provided to the state of Mississippi on the landline side.
Considering the updated fiber lines and technology that C Spire has and will use for this contract, it should have beaten out AT&T even without outbidding by $32 million.
But Mississippi gets the best of both worlds. Mississippi gets state-of-the-art technology and it gets it for $32 million less than AT&T would cost. Lord knows there are any number of projects in Mississippi that could use the $32 million it would save by having C Spire as its land line provider.
It's a slam dunk, right?
But AT&T, which is trying to protect the monopoly it has enjoyed for more than 100 years, has gummed up the process and now the state is dealing with a protracted protest process in which very little information is coming out.
So, we wait.
The state waits. Law enforcement waits. Education waits.
In this instance, C Spire is the best choice for Mississippi and C Spire has the best interest of Mississippi at heart.
The Greenwood Commonwealth says the state doesn't overtest students, schools do:
Are Mississippi's public school students overtested? Yes, but not in the way most educators who make that claim say.
The problem is not the standardized tests that the state requires the schools to administer every spring, starting in the third grade.
The problem is with all the tests that some districts implement to try to get their students ready for the real thing.
A report released recently by the education policy group Mississippi First suggests that the problem is especially pronounced in districts where the test results tend to be substandard.
The nonprofit, which advocates for school reform, surveyed the testing load at two unidentified D-rated districts and two A-rated districts. Although this is not enough of a sampling to be statistically valid, the results are still worth considering.
The survey found that students in the four districts on average spent about eight hours a year taking state-mandated exams — less than 1 percent of the entire academic year. That doesn't sound onerous at all for what is an objective way to verify whether schools are actually teaching much.
What may be counterproductive, though, is how much time is spent on test prep, especially in lower-performing districts. In one of the D-rated districts, a typical fifth-grader spent 50 hours on district-mandated tests to get ready for the state ones, according to the study. That compared to just six hours for a fifth-grader in an A-rated district.
Teachers in both D-rated districts said they were told to stop trying to teach any new material after three-fourths of the school year was finished, but to instead concentrate all their instructional time on intensive test preparation.
No wonder kids in struggling schools continue to struggle. What could be more boring than constant test drilling — all in the hope of making teachers and administrators look better when the results come in. It's also arguably self-defeating, as all that time spent on test prep is time not spent on developing the knowledge base that the tests measure.
This overtesting is not the fault of the state mandates but rather a perversion of them by school districts themselves. The state does not require all these assessments and test prep. Those are decisions made at the local level.
If the schools are doing what they should — communicating knowledge to students, developing their academic skills and fostering in them a love for learning — the state tests will take care of themselves.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal says a special session may be warranted:
Mississippi leaders appear to be continuing discussions left off at the end of the regular legislative session regarding the state's transportation infrastructure system and specifically how to fund repairs and maintenance to roads and bridges.
If those conversations result in an actual proposal that state leaders believe can be taken to the full legislature, a feat that elected officials have grappled with for several years, Gov. Phil Bryant could ultimately call a special session of the Legislature for that proposal to be formally adopted.
The action would bring legislators back to Jackson for a specific amount of time, usually a few days, in order to deal with this one particular issue before being disbanded.
There are a handful of key topics that, in our minds, are worthy of calling the entire Legislature back to Jackson for, and transportation is one of them.
As we've mentioned in the space many times before, finding a solution to properly fund repairs to our state's vast network of roads and bridges is simply too important of a topic to keep putting off. Blame it on disagreements between House and Senate members or sluggish revenue collections all you want, but the moment these failures end up costing the life of a Mississippian will be the day we're all going to wish we had done more sooner.
Almost immediately after the 2018 legislative session ended on March 28, speculation began that the governor would call a special session to address the transportation issue. On April 9, Bryant's spokesman confirmed to the Daily Journal that work was ongoing among the state's leadership to find a common solution for infrastructure and that included the consideration of a special session.
Those conversations have included combining a special session on transportation with one on how to disburse the funds from the settlement the state will receive for damages from the 2010 BP explosion in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in a massive oil spill. The state has about $100 million in a BP fund and is slated to receive $750 million over 17 years. The Legislature cannot agree on how those funds should be spent. At least some members of the House believe the funds should be earmarked for transportation, as reported by the Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison.
The Legislature has been grappling for years with how to generate more money for transportation, with most higher ranking leaders avoiding the solutions that involve a tax increase of any kind. Studies have indicated that an additional $400 million per year is needed to deal with a deteriorating system of infrastructure on both the state and local level.
We urge leaders to continue exploring all funding solutions that would bring a permanent resolution to this critically important issue. If and when state leaders feel like they have a feasible solution in hand that truly benefits Mississippians, then - and only then - should calling a special session be considered.