Minnesota wants all schools to combine purchasing power

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and state legislators in the House and Senate want to require all the state’s school districts to band together in a purchasing pool to lower the cost of technology, supplies, and other goods and services, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Their proposal, called "Minnesota K-12 Shared Service," would require districts to combine their buying power to purchase things such as food, computer equipment, and school buses. All Minnesota public schools and charter schools would have to participate. Schools would have to do their buying from a list of companies approved and compiled by the Minnesota Department of Education. The idea is that creating a large buying pool of districts would drive down prices. Supporters of the measure say schools in other states have cut their buying costs 5 to 15 percent by using such arrangements. "We believe that, by requiring districts to come together in these areas, services will be more efficient, less expensive, and of higher quality," said Pawlenty at a Capitol news conference Jan. 6 announcing the initiative. Textbooks and other school curriculum-related materials are not covered by the proposal. Though efforts in other states were cited in the news conference, many school districts in Minnesota are already involved in cooperative buying pools with other districts. Anoka-Hennepin schools, for instance, is part of a technology-buying consortium that has allowed it to buy new iMac computers for $719 apiece, 24 percent less than the normal price for schools. Some school officials warned legislators to tread carefully before mandating something many districts are already practicing…

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