Guest Blog: Changes to Federal Procurement to Impact Local Purchasing

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Today's guest blog post comes from our friends at SIIA. SIIA is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry, representing approximately 700 member companies worldwide that develop software and digital information content. SIIA members include the leading publishers and innovative developers of digital products and services for K-20 education, including instructional materials, education software and applications, professional development and related technologies and services for use in education.

New procurement rules from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will impact schools and districts around the country. In an effort to streamline processes, improve cost effectiveness, and reduce waste/abuse, OMB consolidate 8 previous procurement guidelines into a single set of requirements. This new process will apply to any federal, state or local agency, including school districts, spending a federal grant, such as Title I or Perkins CTE Act.

While the new rules are slightly more specific in detailing specific procurement procedures, for the most part, the new rules will not be a huge change from current practice as many states already require some of these practices in place. The U.S. Department of Education provided clarification on a few of the changes that school procurement officials should be aware of:

  1. All contracts for products or services equal to or greater than $150,000 must be put through a competitive bid – eliminated sole-source contracting except when necessary and documented.
  2. RFP’s may not specify product brand names but instead must utilize product specifications to allow for equal competition. However, there are limited exceptions where a school or district’s existing technology or infrastructure requires specifying a brand name.
  3. Pilot programs also must follow the new rules on competition and be put through a competitive bidding process if the cost is equal to or greater than $150,000.
  4. School employees who “select, award, and administer” contracts may not receive any “tangible personal benefit” from the service provider. Tangible benefits include improved employment opportunities which may in some cases impact the level of professional development a provider may offer such employee.
Though technically effective since December 26, 2014, non-federal entities, including schools and LEAs, are under an implementation grace period for two (2) fiscal years after the effective date. For example, a school with a fiscal year start of July 1 will need to shift to the new rules by June 30, 2017.

For more information, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has made its fact sheet on the procurement rule changes available to AASA and its members. Please reach out to Brendan Desetti, SIIA’s director of education policy, with any questions.


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