Skyward Inc. of Stevens Point has filed an appeal with the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), questioning the process that led the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to select a Minnesota firm to provide a single-vendor statewide student information system (SSIS) for schools.
Jim King, the founder and CEO of Skyward, said the company provides student information systems to more than 50 percent of the school districts in the state, yet the DPI selected Infinite Campus, which serves about 10 percent of the districts, to provide the SSIS.
“They’re trying to legislate us out of business,” King said. “That in my mind is the truth. Other states aren’t using a single vendor. They (Wisconsin) voted for a monopoly. How can you justify a monopoly.”
He said he feels the state is trying to drive the company, a home-grown product, out of the state even though it also provides financial software to about 80 percent of the school districts in the state, in addition to the student software.
“Every customer will be forced to move to a different product,” he said. “What kind of person would do that. They need to stand up and see this is wrong.”
He questioned the selection process that declared Infinite Campus as the single vendor, and the costs to school districts that will have to change their systems, saying that Skyward is looking for an impartial evaluation of this decision and promising that Skyward will exercise all possible legal options.
State Reps. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, and Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, said they have introduced a bipartisan bill in the Assembly, AB60, that would eliminate a single vendor system in the state.
They urged area residents to contact legislators from around the state to support the bill so that it passes, negating the DPI’s action.
Shankland said the Portage County Business Council reported that Skyward has an economic impact of $20 million a year on Portage County that would be lost if the DPI remains with a single vendor, forcing Skyward to move out of the state because it can’t do business here.
If it were to move, Skyward has indicated in the past it would probably be to Texas, because it does business in a large number of schools there and has been declared a preferred provider of SSIS.
“We’re here today to stand up for Wisconsin jobs and smarter Wisconsin decisions,” said Portage County Executive Patti Dreier. “We’re appealing for a multi-vendor system, freedom of choice in the market place, the free market place that has made the nation strong.”
She called the single-vendor SSIS idea “an insult to the basic sense of decency. It’s insulting to a business owner who has worked to compete freely. We have a manipulated system – in black and white.”
She said all business owners should take note of the situation. “Are you next?” she asked. “Will you be forced out of business in Wisconsin too. This is not only about school software, this is an American issue for freedom.”
Stevens Point Mayor Andrew Halverson said Skyward has demonstrated that it provides service to school districts because that’s why they come back to the company. “That’s what the free market is supposed to do,” he said.
He called the single-vendor system “the antithesis of job creation. This is the antithesis of local control and the free market economy.”
Cliff King, Jim’s brother and president of Skyward, said Texas, which is larger than Wisconsin, chose four companies to provide SSIS services in 2012 and Infinite Campus was not one of those four.
Skyward has always favored a multi-vendor system, he said, and 50 percent of the schools would have had zero cost to switch to an SSIS system, while the state is estimating the conversion costs to be $28 million statewide under the single-vendor system.