What rules should govern nonprofits mostly funded by state?

The State Board of Education is recommending that a nonprofit it funds almost entirely be held to the same contracting and public disclosure standards as any state agency.

The State Education Resource Center  — a nonprofit with offices located at the education department’s Middletown offices — drew a lot of attention last year following the Connecticut Post‘s disclosure that the nonprofit was used to help craft and shepherd Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform agenda through the legislature.

The organization — which will receive $15 million in state funding this fiscal year– is currently not required to employ contractors without competitive bidding for the job and is not subject to having its meetings or other documents open and available to the public. The State Department of Education, conversely, is bound by the state’s open records and meetings laws and competitive bidding requirements.

“Recently some questions have arisen… Some of these questions are legitimate,” Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told state board before it unanimously adopted the recommended changes. The recommendations now head to General Assembly for legislators to consider.

The approval would require SERC to create a governing board that would be subject to public disclosure and contracting laws, effectively making them a public authority.

“The goal is to enhance confidence in SERC,” Pryor said. “It’s necessary to formalize the structure and end the ambiguity.”

SERC largely deals with special education-related matters and other tasks given to it by the department.

Asked why the nonprofit was turned to for help in hiring contractors for crafting and selling the controversial education reforms proposed by Malloy, Pryor said, “Because the mission of SERC is to provide support in this department’s mission. It seemed to make sense.”