As we step into 2024, it’s disheartening to see the unchanged landscape of contracting opportunities for Black vendors within Columbus City Schools. Last year, I raised a flag about the Capital Improvements department ceasing to advertise their contracting opportunities in OhioMBE, an LEDE certified business. Sadly, this situation remains the same.
In 2023, the district’s spending with certified LEDE vendors was a mere 5 percent of its $332 million budget, with Black vendors receiving only $8 million in contracts. This is not just a number; it’s a reflection of the ongoing struggle for equality and fair opportunity in our community.
The lack of intentionality in engaging with Black vendors, especially those who are not just business owners but also taxpayers in the district, is more than an oversight—it’s a systemic failure. As a community and as advocates for minority businesses, we must continue to push for transparency and fairness in how contracts are awarded.
Despite having an equity policy to spend 20% of contracts with certified LEDE vendors, the elected board continuously votes on legislation that excludes Black vendors, often selecting vendors outside the district. This practice is contrary to the policy’s spirit and purpose and further widens the gap in economic opportunities for local Black businesses.
Columbus City Schools has the opportunity to set an example of inclusion and economic empowerment. It’s high time they step up and make intentional efforts to ensure that local Black businesses are not just participants, but beneficiaries of the district’s economic activities.
Disappointingly, the letter I sent last year to the entire elected school board highlighting these issues went unanswered. This silence speaks volumes and underscores the need for persistent advocacy and action.
As we remember the wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle,” let us renew our commitment to this struggle for fairness and equity in our local economy.
Just my thoughts… RWB