A consortium of volunteers from California have slowly restructured their state schools’ digital procurement process. Next year, it plans to go national.

Procuring digital goods and services for public schools in the US has reportedly been a fraught process for decades. A fractured landscape between underfunded public institutions and a private tech sector has struggled to even accurately assess students and regulators’ needs, let alone finding the right edtech (education technology) to meet those needs. 

This is all made harder by an increase in the amount of technology being integrated into schools—whether that’s good, bad, or maybe both, it’s undeniably expensive. The global education technology market was valued at $123.40 billion in 2022 by Grand View Research. It’s expected to expand at a rate of 13.6% between now and the end of the decade.

The power of education for procurement

Edtech is also a wide umbrella, with examples ranging from apps, overhead projectors, and chromebooks for students to thousands of screens, digital signage, and “content management platforms” like those found in Christopher Columbus High, an all-boys prep in Miami which the South Korean tech giant Samsung has transformed into a “connected campus”. In the US, procurement functions working for individual school districts are often forced to work with smaller budgets, fractured regulatory landscapes, and to compete with private schools with larger budgets that drive overall prices in the sector up.

Tired of inefficient processes and uneven contracts, a consortium of procurement professionals working in the California public school system are looking to change the edtech procurement process in the US.

The Education Technology Joint Powers Authority (Ed Tech JPA) was formed “out of frustration” with the existing system, or lack thereof, in 2019. The volunteer group, made up of procurement specialists and school purchasing professionals, has spent the past four years streamlining procurement for digital products and services, leveraging the buying power of multiple schools to negotiate prices, buy in bulk and save money.

From a grouping of school districts located in Irvine, San Juan, San Ramon Valley, Fullerton, Clovis, El Dorado County and Capistrano Unified districts, the consortium has grown to include 163 member districts that educate around 2.3 million students. The organisation has been awarded 23 procurement contracts to date, and is growing rapidly in education.

At the California IT in Education (CITE) conference, held in Sacramento during November, JPA President Brianne Ford, predicted that next year would see the program expand beyond California and make group bargaining procurement for edtech a national feature of the US school system.

By Harry Menear

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