According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 14,000 school districts in the United States, housing a total of over 130,00 public schools. And, every day, education professionals make purchases to help those schools run like a well-oiled machine. They purchase supplies, equipment, construction, services, and more. Most importantly, these opportunities are usually open to anybody, so contracting with public schools can be quite an important source of revenue for small businesses.
While the contract lengths, award amounts, submission requirements, and procurement practices will vary greatly from state to state and district to district, you can usually bet that each will generally require the following precautions:
Contact the right people.
Some districts advertise their procurements online or by teleconference, but it’s always a good idea to contact the Department of Procurement and Contracts directly to find out about listings. They will also explain any rules and regulations they may have for soliciting and accepting bids. When contacting the contracts office it’s helpful to get answers to the following questions before you begin the bid process.
- Does the procurement and contract office accept unsolicited bids or does is it only accept bids from sponsored or approved vendors
- Do contractors need to satisfy any minority or women-owned business compliance requirements?
- Does the procurement and contract office offer any pieces of training, technical assistance on specifications and qualified products, compliance reviews and inspections?
During the bid process, be aware that different districts will have vastly different requisition tables citing specific amounts type of biddable or non-biddable goods, plus policies for procurement at various levels. You’ll find that sometimes there are no contracts necessary for purchases under a certain amount, while competitive bidding is required for awards that fall within certain ranges. It’s impossible to list all the differences, but the procurement and contracts office will usually provide you this information as soon as you contact them.
Finally, when writing your bid, be sure to follow the same guidelines you would if you were bidding for contracts issued by a government agency. Public schools’ procurement and contracts officers will be looking for at least these three things:
- Your capability to deliver a quality product or service
- Your ability to do so for the best value
- Your ability to deliver the products or services on schedule
With increasingly tightening budgets and often quarterly spending reviews from district school boards, procurement and contracts offices are feeling more and more pressure to get more bang for its buck. Demonstrate that your business is the ideal fit and the best solution to a specific need and you’ll be winning more public school contracts in no time.