To strengthen school district procurement and ensure federal Covid aid and other funds are spent in ways that make a meaningful difference for students, Chiefs for Change today released a report outlining recommendations for effective and efficient procurement operations. The report, titled, The Power of Procurement: How Effective District Procurement Operations Can Make a Difference for Students, helps systems establish a clear and measurable vision for procurement. Specifically, the report guides systems through setting goals for how procurement impacts student learning; the staff’s experience in ordering and using goods and services; and the time it takes to receive deliveries. As part of the vision-setting process, the report also provides guidance on how sound procurement processes can help districts make smarter use of available funds; get needed supplies and supports to classrooms faster; expand capacity; and track and communicate performance. The second part of the resource includes steps districts can take to achieve their vision. There are recommendations for assessing current operations, launching initiatives, and implementing changes and evaluating their impact.
Without a thoughtful, systematic approach, procurement processes can be a major barrier to unlocking the full potential of federal Covid aid. The government approved approximately $190 billion in emergency funding to help schools address the effects of the pandemic and established a timeline for when districts must spend or commit those funds for specific projects and needs. The first deadline, related to funds from the CARES Act, is next week, on September 30. Additional deadlines are one and two years away. K-12 systems can use the resource released today to examine and enhance procurement operations as part of their ongoing work to effectively allocate funds and sustain strong partnerships with high-quality vendors.
“Procurement was one of the biggest challenges our district faced on the operations side,” said Michael Hinojosa, the former superintendent of Dallas Independent School District and a member of Chiefs for Change. “It affected staff’s ability to do their work and teach kids. I really wanted us to fix this, because procurement impacts every student, every teacher, and everyone in the district. We did a lot of work—and I’m so proud of what the team did to look at each part of procurement and overhaul the whole operation. The recommendations in this new report from Chiefs for Change can help other districts that want to take on this kind of work.”
The report is based on work that the Chiefs for Change network and its technical assistance partners did to support a large, urban district in strengthening its procurement operations. Through an intensive capabilities assessment; process mapping sessions; a 360-degree benchmarking assessment; interviews; and an in-depth review of policies, procedures, and technology platforms, the team identified several issues to address. These included high workloads, inefficiencies driven by manual processes and duplicate steps, and limited transparency. The district received approximately $800 million in Covid aid, and roughly one third of its $3 billion annual operating budget flows through the procurement division. With a need to ensure funds are spent wisely, leaders developed and launched more than 25 initiatives focused on procurement process improvements and technology upgrades. These reduced procurement cycle times; eliminated manual processing of bids; increased transparency; reduced workloads; and helped to support a healthy team culture.
Dr. Hinojosa will talk more about the importance of effective procurement operations and share the Chiefs for Change report’s recommendations at the Future of Education Finance Summit in Baltimore tomorrow. He will be joined by Robert Avossa, the former superintendent of The School District of Palm Beach County, who is a chief in residence at Chiefs for Change and supported the technical assistance work.
As a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, Chiefs for Change operates the largest community of practice for education leaders in the United States. The network also provides technical assistance for promising initiatives in members’ systems; advocates for policies and practices that make a difference for students; and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems. The report released today is the latest in a library of resources that Chiefs for Change produced to help systems support students in the wake of the pandemic and beyond. See the full library here.