Implementing an upgrade, whether it’s a Category 1 or Category 2 project, can be a significant upfront investment. However, school districts looking to make this investment decision are not alone. There are a number of school districts around the country that are looking to upgrade; finding and working together with neighboring districts can provide significant benefits. Not only can you share skills and the workload of finding providers and vendors, but you can also use consortium principles to negotiate better prices for services by purchasing at scale.
When managed correctly, purchasing consortia can negotiate better prices for many services because of their ability to buy in bulk. Many districts have found that these consortia have been effective purchasing vehicles.
In addition, most recent changes in the E-rate order now prioritize the review of E-rate applications from state and district led consortia. However, it is important to remember that if a district’s RFP process is handled well and there is competition for the bid, the district may be able to get similar pricing on its own.
Keep in mind that forming and operating a consortium is not a trivial task and requires a significant amount of time and effort. Forming the consortium, gathering and maintaining the proper paperwork, running the RFP, and managing relationships are all required from leaders of these types of consortia. It is critical that districts think about the trade-off between time (and therefore cost) of creating a consortia vs the procurement cost-savings. There are times when this can really pay off, and times when this doesn’t make sense, and whether to go down the consortia path will in the end depend on the individual district situation.