Non-Profit Aims For Market Transparency In K-12 Edtech Purchases

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are made by various manufacturers including Acer, Dell, and HP. The laptops sold to districts are tailored for school use, so they’re not identical to the retail versions, Friedlander says. Districts can buy school Chromebooks from a very competitive group of re-sellers, and the re-sellers that strike good deals with the manufacturers can pass on price breaks to schools, he says.

In general, the prices districts paid for Chromebooks were lower than the prices for comparable retail models, Friedlander says.

TEC advises school edtech buyers to comparison shop among a wide variety of Chromebook sellers, to keep checking TEC’s latest price reports, and to consider forming procurement partnerships with other districts. For example, two districts that make a joint order may have greater negotiating power because of the larger volume of the sale.

Friedlander’s group is contemplating the creation of a buying consortium. But for now, it’s just doing some match-making between districts with similar needs. However, even a simple buying partnership of this kind can get complicated, he says. For one thing, public school district purchasing can be constrained by local government policies at the city, county or town levels.

For now, gathering market intelligence is the main TEC strategy for helping districts make the most of their edtech budgets. The group now has 50 districts as members, but Friedlander estimates that there are about 17,000 U.S. school districts. He wants more districts to join, and to share more of their insights on the pricing and quality of edtech offerings. So TEC is going on the road to drum up support.

Friedlander’s co-founder at TEC, Celina Morgan-Standard, was at the Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, FLA last week, holding a session on canny procurement tactics. TEC is also planning outreach through its partnership with Future Ready Schools, an organization of 3,500 districts that helps the schools make use of digital learning technologies.

“We’re very optimistic that we’ll increase our capacity to do data collection,” Friedlander says.

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Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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