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Agency nixes education project, loses $840K in federal money

The Mississippi Department of Education has scrapped a $5.5 million software project after spending $840,000 in federal money that it can't get back, citing "intrinsic technical barriers."

Posted: Sep 6, 2018 12:50 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Department of Education has scrapped a $5.5 million software project after spending $840,000 in federal money that it can't get back, citing "intrinsic technical barriers."

The Clarion Ledger reports the agency won't be able to recoup the money spent on a contract with the Massachusetts-based Public Consulting Group for the Mississippi IEP Data Accountability System, or MIDAS. Education officials told the consultants last week to stop working on the effort to create a statewide online database for special education students' individualized education programs. Those plans, required by federal law, are supposed to outline these students' services and academic goals.

The project was approved by the department's previous chief information officer, John Porter, who resigned in November 2017. He cited personal reasons, but had faced repeated questions over computer contracts.

Chief Academic Officer Nathan Oakley said in an email obtained by the newspaper that obstacles on underlying computer systems would have prevented the new system from functioning.

"MDE has determined that intrinsic technical barriers will prevent the system from fully functioning as envisioned without additional, significant investments outside of the scope of the contract," he wrote in the email to district special education directors.

The project was set to launch Oct. 1. Officials had been planning the new system for two years, raising questions about why it took so long for the agency to discover it wasn't feasible. The state made six payments to the company between February and July.

Oakley said the user interface appeared to work as expected, but that back-end technology didn't work.

It's unclear whether the agency became aware of the problems prior to a review of information technology contracts by Chief Information Officer John Kraman, who joined the agency in the spring. Kraman reported the state would have to have a major investment of time and labor to support the project long-term.

The state had said the system would support districts that were paying for their own computer systems, freeing up local money for instruction, and provide a way to track special education, attendance and discipline records for students transferring between districts. MIDAS also would have made it easier to prepare annual federal reports.

Communication from Oakley indicates some districts had already started to transition away from their online IEP systems in anticipation of the MIDAS launch.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94021

Reported Deaths: 2846
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6979155
DeSoto542555
Harrison374372
Jackson339967
Madison321286
Rankin319375
Lee261067
Jones242778
Forrest239570
Washington218171
Lafayette209239
Lauderdale2007124
Bolivar179565
Oktibbeha175450
Lamar163534
Neshoba1540103
Panola144527
Sunflower142144
Lowndes140357
Warren138150
Leflore137080
Pontotoc123616
Pike121348
Monroe118965
Scott116425
Copiah116333
Coahoma112827
Holmes109258
Marshall107615
Lincoln106853
Grenada106235
Yazoo103929
Simpson101443
Union97824
Tate95537
Leake94037
Adams92136
Wayne87721
Pearl River86750
Marion84133
Prentiss81517
Covington80922
Alcorn77511
Itawamba77021
Newton75923
Tallahatchie75718
George75113
Winston72519
Tishomingo66137
Chickasaw65624
Tippah64516
Attala64125
Walthall59425
Clay58117
Hancock56421
Jasper55515
Noxubee54315
Clarke53739
Smith52414
Calhoun50612
Tunica48113
Montgomery45520
Claiborne45216
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41814
Perry40918
Quitman3755
Humphreys37315
Stone35711
Greene34617
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32811
Carroll31212
Amite31110
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2439
Benton2201
Franklin1893
Choctaw1795
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131988

Reported Deaths: 2304
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19123337
Mobile13122290
Montgomery8688173
Madison763075
Tuscaloosa7323114
Lee575159
Shelby571950
Baldwin508749
Marshall387943
Calhoun337439
Etowah336547
Morgan321426
Houston272722
Elmore255847
DeKalb237119
St. Clair224335
Walker224380
Talladega207726
Limestone200119
Cullman186218
Dallas174926
Franklin174528
Russell17312
Autauga169124
Lauderdale165333
Colbert160926
Escambia156425
Blount156014
Jackson151611
Chilton150227
Dale133343
Covington131127
Coffee12838
Pike11619
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113242
Clarke105517
Marion94828
Butler91138
Barbour8387
Winston71612
Marengo70119
Lowndes64927
Pickens63814
Bibb63610
Randolph62212
Hale61528
Lawrence59220
Bullock59114
Geneva5814
Monroe5768
Cherokee56916
Clay5527
Washington54913
Perry5386
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52411
Crenshaw52331
Macon47820
Henry4754
Fayette4269
Sumter41819
Lamar3532
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3326
Greene30015
Coosa1653
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