PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania taxpayers have filed a request to send their lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia over a contract awarded to "a very well-connected bidder" back to state court.
The lawsuit was originally filed in state court by three taxpayers in the school district concerning a contract that was awarded “to a very expensive – and very well-connected – bidder, rather than others who could have performed at least as well at a much lower cost,” the plaintiffs' Oct. 5 motion to remand says.
The lawsuit, on which 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education is also a plaintiff, had been moved into federal court after the defendants filed a motion to do so, claiming one of the plaintiffs' issues was a federal one.
“The Defendants were able to remove this case to federal court only because one plaintiff that was added while the case was pending in state court has an unrelated claim against the Defendants that arises under federal law, namely a First Amendment retaliation claim,” the plaintiff’s motion to remand stated.
“The central issue in this case is whether a court should order a Pennsylvania governmental entity to comply with Pennsylvania law at the request of Pennsylvania citizens. That question should be decided by the Pennsylvania state courts, rather than a federal court."
The complaint alleged that the School District improperly conducted a request-for-proposal process for a professional development program for new principals. It seeks to stop the awarding of the contract by alleging the RFP process violates state law.
The complaint says the contract given to The New Teacher Project will cost taxpayers $1.3 million more than another vendor's proposal.
The plaintiffs say this is not the first questionable contract that was awarded by the school board. They thus decided to pursue a “comprehensive and permanent solution to the School District’s wrongdoing,” the court filing documents noted.
The School District has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but it is on the backburner while the remand motion is sorted out.
"Under Pennsylvania law, plaintiffs’ failure to challenge the award of a specific contract is fatal to their claim. In addition, plaintiffs complain about the School District’s alleged failure to comply with its own informal policies; however, a school district is not required by Pennsylvania law to strictly follow its own informal policies," the motion says.
The plaintiffs are represented by Peter J. Kreher of Kreher & Trapani.