District co-ops, bulk purchasing groups on the rise
- Bulk purchasing and co-op agreements are on the rise among school districts, with 73% of superintendents still reporting “inadequately funded” districts amid lingering recovery in the wake of the 2008 recession, District Administration reports.
- According to a research report on the topic by Noelle Ellerson Ng, AASA’s associate executive director of policy and advocacy, 64% of districts surveyed joined bulk purchasing groups or co-ops compared to under 11% just five years ago.
- These arrangements offer the most benefit to small, rural or low-income districts, with purchasing group membership tending to take place on the state level and administration fees also connected to each contract’s bid price.
Despite the economy’s overall recovery since the 2008 recession, the return of education funding to pre-recession levels in many states continues to lag
— and in some cases remains below those levels. As a result, district co-ops and bulk purchasing groups have grown in popularity. As a matter of fact, the trend even nabbed the 2017 K-12 Dive Award for Most Disruptive/Innovative Idea.
The strength in numbers afforded by these arrangements have made it possible for numerous districts and schools nationwide to fulfill initiatives and bargain for more competitive pricing on contracts on goods and services they might otherwise not have been able to afford. Members of the Southwestern Ohio Educational Purchasing Council, for example, reportedly saved as much as 40% on over $200 million in annual expenditures.
According to the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance, the overall benefits of such agreements also include less administrative burden, more opportunities to increase efficiency in procuring goods and services, and opportunities for participating districts to use the best purchasing procedures for the most competitive contracts.
With demand for makerspaces, coding education, greater career and technical education opportunities, hands-on experiences and more on the rise, these partnerships offer valuable opportunities to administrators wanting to make the most of the funding they have.