Who is to blame for the state’s largest public school district, Columbus City Schools, failing to meet purchasing goals for the last five years? The district spent $88,203,222.01 during the 2016-2107 school term. Forty-nine Black-owned LEDE, Local Economically Disadvantaged Enterprises, received $12,175,668.94 of purchasing contracts or 8.87 percent of all contracting dollars.
I have questioned the commitment of the district to meet the board mandated 20 percent purchasing goal. Are those that are charged with procuring good and services doing their best to include Black businesses? The numbers reported by the district suggest something different. Are LEDE businesses in the forefront of thought when purchasing decisions are made? It appears to be a utilization issue, not a certification problem. The outreach coordinator, Terri Wise, can certify a ton of LEDE businesses and make them aware of contracting opportunities. She can advocate for LEDE and Black businesses in meetings. She doesn’t have the authority to issue purchase orders or enter into contracts. She simply makes the community aware of buying opportunities within Columbus City Schools.
The problem is the folks that issue purchase orders and contracts don’t include Black people in the district’s scheme of business. The district certainly has qualified disadvantaged businesses to provide goods and services. The list of LEDE vendors is posted online. The purchasing department is aware of the list. The elected school board is aware of the list. Administrators are aware of the list. Black folks still aren’t getting contracts as mandated by board policy.
Again, so why won’t the district meet the purchasing goal? The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of those who have power. The blame falls on the shoulders of those who are in charge of the tax dollars. The blame falls on the shoulders of the elected school board. The blame falls on the shoulders of administrators and departments who buy goods and services.
Just my thoughts…rwb