In public education, procurement reform has been all but ignored in policy discussions and procurement policies have remained virtually untouched. But the high price of ignoring procurement is becoming clear to people trying to reform education on the ground. Often involving long, cumbersome processes and risk-averse central office cultures, procurement can impede school-level decision making and effective partnerships with entrepreneurs. In New York City and other large urban districts, this environment has stymied efforts to give schools more autonomy and adopt new technology-based solutions.
Emerging technological solutions and the need for school redesign demand that school systems bring procurement practices into the 21st century to make them agile, adaptable, and innovation-friendly. This report outlines the problems school leaders face in procuring innovative goods and services, distills promising approaches used by other sectors to modernize public procurement processes around emerging technologies, and recommends steps districts can take to start modernizing procurement.