Senators want more work on a bill that would force the state Department of Education to relaunch a contract competition to pick state standardized tests with rules that would aid the ACT organization.

House and Senate negotiators tacked the language onto House Bill 434, a must-pass bill that transfers money in the budget. Senators sent the bill back for more work after House members passed it Tuesday.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison said he remains opposed to legislative intervention in the department’s process to pick a new testing provider.

“Let’s let them do their job,” Tollison said after senators recommitted the bill.

The Board of Education could vote on a new contract as early as April if lawmakers don’t intervene. State Superintendent Carey Wright has previously balked at legislative intervention, saying the department is trying to be fair. The department has refused to release the names of companies that have bid in the current competition, although Pearson PLC has acknowledged that it is seeking the contract.

Many local school superintendents have supported Iowa-based ACT as Mississippi’s test provider. This year, the state is using a test written by Pearson for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

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