LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Education awarded a $4 million contract to an Indiana company without taking bids after state lawmakers attended the company's conferences at state expense.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that 14 state representatives and a House staff member attended Bloomington, Indiana-based Solution Tree's educational conferences in Atlanta and Phoenix at a cost of more than $25,000 to the state over the past two years.

Officials for legislative agencies say they're unaware of lawmakers attending any other private company's conference at state expense in the past few years. The Atlanta conference also was attended by four education officials at a cost of more than $4,300 to the state.

The Education Department's contract with Solution Tree is for a pilot project in the Prescott School District and 11 other schools.

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com