PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The ILO Group is no longer working for Gov. Dan McKee’s administration, effectively ending a controversial state education contract six months into the deal.
The contract — originally worth up to $5.2 million — came under fire last year after a Target 12 investigation examined the highly unusual bidding process that led up to ILO’s selection. R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office has since launched an investigation into the process, and legislative oversight panels have held hearings to scrutinize the deal.
ILO’s first invoice shows the company billed the state $763,000 for the first three months of its contract, reporting 3,559 hours of work between July 1 and Sept. 30. (The invoice shows ILO gave the state a 6% credit on its $277.84 hourly rate due to a change in the scope of its work.)
ILO has submitted a second invoice to the governor’s office, but a spokesperson declined to disclose the amount the company is still seeking until after the invoice has been “reviewed and processed.”
Spokespersons for both the governor and ILO confirmed the working relationship ended. The contract technically runs through June, according to purchasing documents. It wasn’t immediately clear whether ILO or McKee ended the relationship.
“Their work concluded at the end of December,” McKee spokesperson Alana O’Hare said in a statement.
ILO spokesperson Frank McMahon said the firm’s work has ended, “and the contract is complete.”
Target 12 learned ILO’s work had ended while putting together the final pieces of a new report examining how the deal came together nearly a year ago. That story is scheduled to air Monday at 5 p.m.
In a memo to the governor’s office reviewed by Target 12, ILO outlined a list of work since the contract began last July, saying it was “honored and proud to have partnered with Rhode Island during these extraordinary challenging times.”
The list included helping state agencies “build capacity” and implement plans that have “allowed students, teachers and school staff to return to in-person instruction as safely as possible.” ILO also said it provided a final blueprint for the statewide expansion of a test-to-stay pilot program, designed to allow students who are close contacts of COVID-positive classmates to remain in school if they test negative.
The firm also pointed to its work on Municipal Learning Centers, saying the effort has left the state “well-positioned to continue the next stage of expansion.”
McKee’s newly released budget plan proposes allocating $15 million of the state’s $1 billion remaining from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to create 11 municipal learning programs, which are essentially early-childhood and after-school educational programs that are led by mayors and town administrators instead of school departments. The programs could be offered free or at a charge.
The McKee administration initially said the programs would be created in 11 new communities, but state officials have since clarified that five of the 11 new programs would be set up in the state-run Providence school district.
According to the House Fiscal Office, the administration projects spending $5 million a year on the municipal learning programs over the next three years. In addition, the governor’s budget also proposes allocating $46.7 million in federal relief funds to help municipalities build or renovate community wellness centers, which could house the municipal learning programs.
The other school districts listed as interested are Central Falls, Middletown, North Providence and Woonsocket — along with the only existing municipal education program in Cumberland, which was created while McKee was that town’s mayor. The final program of the 11 proposed has not yet been assigned to a community, according to a state spokesperson.
In its memo to the governor’s office, ILO said the best path forward to completing the municipal learning program project would be for the state to “pursue a new request for proposals to allow for a shift in strategy.” ILO does not plan on submitting a bid for the RFP, according to the governor’s office.
“ILO Group developed the plans for the municipal learning programs being proposed in the governor’s budget and in doing so shared with us that they will not apply for future funds,” O’Hare said.
Other accomplishments highlighted by the governor’s office included the consulting firm’s outreach to school districts to “help local leaders understand vaccination levels in their districts.” ILO also engaged in an “intensive study and analysis of students’ transportation needs and challenges and made recommendations on how to best manage many of the transportation-specific logistical challenges that COVID presents.”
ILO is technically contracted with the state as part of a master-price agreement, which typically means government agencies can solicit the firm’s services through the remainder of the fiscal year. But ILO officials made clear in the memo that they felt the work had been completed.
“We have completed the project outlined in the RFP,” ILO officials wrote. “We are completing this work in a faster timeline than originally anticipated, and well under budget.”
Eli Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Tim White (email@example.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.