Educational Technology procurement has been challenging since the first computerized systems and automation products started replacing adding machines and blackboards. While efficient procurement should always be a target of those entrusted with public funds, our current economic environment demands that our state look at ways to increase the economic opportunities to provide the most benefit for all public school students.
In most educational technology procurement exercises the purchasing entity goes through a defined set of local as well as state procurement guidelines to obtain Technology goods and services. In many instances all LEAs / Charters go through a similar, but separate procurement exercise. These separate procurements demand local resources from each entity to procure the same or similar infrastructure or technology services as their regional or state neighbors. This procurement model is a North Carolina statewide k12 inefficiency and this non-aggregated, inefficient procurement cycle is repeated in perpetuity.
Because of the cumbersome nature of groups of LEAs /Charters coming together to organize group procurements our state, North Carolina k12 entities often overspend and receive no economies of scale in procurements based on what other k12 entities procure. This inefficient procurement methodology is costing our k12 entities much more for technology services and infrastructure than what an optimal procurement service could provide.
While there are a few state infrastructure contracts that LEAs can choose to leverage, in many cases these state contractual service types only scratch the surface of the efficiencies that could be gained. In most cases the information from the LEAs/ Charters suggest that for a particular service the k12 community typically self-selects a very few vendors that provide similar solutions. This suggests that for most technology goods and services it would take just a few similar deals with multiple vendors for LEA / Charters to continue to use their preferred vendor / service while at the same time gaining the economies of scale of the larger North Carolina k12 community and enjoying the economies of effort in not having to negotiate these procurements.
There will be several challenges to providing this procurement service for the k12 community.
- The current bureaucratic procurement methodologies
- The capacity of current state k12 entities to provide procurement service
- The Federal E-rate guidelines that will sometimes need to be navigated
- The coordination of technology procurements that are paramount to a successful implementation of the Federal Race to the Top as well as the North Carolina Ready, Set, Go initiatives.