Educators at all levels want to secure the right products and services for their students and colleagues. But not every educator knows how to do that in a way that is cost-effective, time-efficient, and compliant with federal, state, and local guidelines.
More and more districts and schools are empowering staff to participate in some sort of purchasing, and often that participation involves small to mid range buys (like supplies, classroom libraries, or one-off department needs.) As that happens, there is heightened need for professional development around purchasing. Educators should be tracking their comparison shopping in order to prove that they are being good stewards of their purchasing power. That means reaching out for quotes before making a purchase.
The following are best practices for districts, schools, and charter organizations when it comes to competitive quotes and compliance.
Know Federal and State Purchasing Policies and Thresholds.
Depending on the source of funds you are using to make a purchase, you will likely be subject to federal or state guidelines on purchasing. The US Department of Education, collectively, issues the Education Department’s General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) which detail methods for procurement at different purchasing levels. You may find that your purchase is subject to competitive, sealed bidding. You may otherwise discover that your purchase simply needs to be spread fairly and evenly across vendor types–such as minority-owned businesses. At any rate, most purchases would benefit from gathering quotes, just in the interest of being a responsible user of public funds.
Know your Internal Purchasing Policies and Guidelines.
Many districts and schools follow even more restrictive purchasing practices than their federal and state governments require. These are issued and approved by school boards, county boards, and/or authorizing districts (in the case of charter schools.) LEAs across the board have interest in ensuring proper procedure, whether it is to stretch resources or encourage use of locally-owned businesses. Expanding vendor pools is a great way to justify those purchases.
Comparison Shop Your Negotiated Contracts.
Most districts and schools are able to shop already-negotiated contracts, whether because their district has completed an RFP process, or because they belong to a co-op or have access to other group purchasing arrangements. Remember that just because a contract is already negotiated does not mean it is the best value for your staff and students. It can still be worth it to comparison shop, especially when values hover near purchasing thresholds that would trigger more formal procurement processes.
Consider All Rules Related to Funding Sources.
Many public and private grants or endowments are considered restricted funds, meaning that the awarding entity has guidelines for how those funds may be used. Oftentimes those guidelines include gathering competitive quotes or bids.
Push for a Whole-Staff Training.
Purchasing power lies among so many different stakeholders in the K12 arena. Depending on the size and makeup of your district, school, or Charter organization, you should conduct whole-staff training. Heads of procurement, CFOs, or school attorneys should be empowered to lead these efforts.
Keep Good Records!
We know that when gathering competitive quotes, sometimes staff has to settle for receiving information in many different forms. You may be receiving emails, faxes, snail mail, or simply taking notes of phone calls. Do you have a digital process for recording all of those quotes? It is not best practice to keep records merely in paper files, because factors like time and staff turnover can make those files difficult to locate in a pinch.
Consider Using Noodle Markets.
One benefit to using Noodle Markets is the ability to issue and track all quotes related to a purchasing need. You may reach out to your own approved vendors, expand to other local and national vendors, and keep all purchasing correspondence in one place. This makes compliance reporting a breeze.
Noodle Markets is a one-stop solution for K12 purchasing. In addition to vendor research and quote tracking, the system allows for immediate purchases, end-to-end RFP and RFI workflows, national purchase trend reports, and insights across multiple schools and departments.
Interested in our free K12 buying tools? Request a Demo.