A new, far-reaching solicitation for K-12 and higher education curricula is expected to be released on Sept. 1 by the National Joint Powers Alliance, a Staples, Minn.-based governmental service cooperative with about 10,000 school districts among its membership of nearly 50,000 public agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations.
This is the second time the national cooperative has issued a request for proposals to the education publishing industry under the “curriculum” heading. A similar attempt two years ago failed to generate responses from bidders who met the criteria, according to Gordy Thompson, contract manager for the alliance who is working on the current project.
Curriculum is a major category departure for the alliance, which grants and manages 175 contracts for products ranging from carpeting and furniture to office supplies and auto parts. Baltimore City Schools bought $3.2 million worth of copiers through the alliance, for example. “They count on us to do that bid so they don’t have to,” explained Mike Hajek, director of contracts and marketing for the alliance. Offering a curriculum contract is one of the few school-based purchases that the cooperative has not had available, he said.
Keeping the solicitation general in scope gives companies a chance to bid based on their entire catalog of product offerings, regardless of grade level, academic subject area, delivery mechanism (textbooks vs. leases), and other variables. “We understand ‘curriculum,’ is broad but through a solutions-type model,” there is no need to break it down further, Hajek indicated. “I understand this is new and different, but the purchasing world has changed and our model has complemented the change and works for everyone.”
For the current “Curriculum and Related Equipment Supplies and Accessories” solicitation, curriculum providers are invited to offer suggestions prior to the Sept. 1 anticipated release date, Thompson said.
Once the RFP is out, businesses that provide curriculum on a national scale—with representatives who can serve school district customers anywhere in the country—will have an opportunity to respond by setting prices on their products. One or more companies can be awarded the four-year contract, Thompson said, depending upon how many meet the criteria, and what the reviewing board decides.
“We are looking for the solution that has the most depth and breadth of products and services, so it can meet any agency’s need in any state,” he explained in a phone interview. For instance, while the contract might cover an entire K-12 math curriculum, a member school district could use the pre-arranged contract to purchase just the 3rd grade curriculum, or specific materials offered as part of that curriculum.
While the price is set for four years, the vendor(s) receiving the award can petition for an increase in price if market conditions change, as manufacturers in other industries do when, for example, the price of a raw material like steel rises. Companies like Caterpillar, Sharp, CDW-G, Life Fitness, and Grainger are under contract with the alliance.
Thompson said he expects there to be bidders this time when the solicitation goes out. “It’s been pretty well received by several different companies,” he said.
Besides the 10,000 districts that are members of the alliance, nearly 2,500 individual schools are also members.