By Ronda Watson Barber
The latest utilitzation reports from Columbus City Schools (CCS) regarding their Local Economically Disadvantaged Enterprise (LEDE) spending have sparked a significant conversation about racial and economic disparities within the district’s procurement practices. Despite a stated goal to allocate 20% of purchases to disadvantaged businesses, the actual spend last school term was only 14%, highlighting a disconnect between policy intentions and outcomes. Notably, the disparity between spending with Black-owned versus white-owned businesses is stark, with white vendors receiving a notably larger portion of the budget.
This situation is particularly ironic and concerning in a district predominantly served by Black students and funded by a community that largely consists of Black taxpayers. This demographic reality makes the underrepresentation of Black-owned businesses in school contracts not just a matter of economic equity, but also of moral and community obligation. The fact that a predominately white administrative staff is failing to engage Black businesses raises questions about systemic biases and the effectiveness of the district’s inclusion policies.
Further complicating matters is the skepticism expressed publicly by a Black board member regarding the quality of services provided by local vendors, which may reflect underlying challenges in achieving both equity and excellence in procurement practices. He should be ashamed of himself. Perhaps the community should vote for a quality board member. This skepticism underscores the need for a more robust and transparent evaluation system that can fairly assess the capabilities of all vendors while ensuring that local, Black-owned businesses are not unjustly excluded from opportunities.
In essence, the current state of LEDE spending in CCS is a microcosm of broader societal issues regarding racial and economic disparities. It calls for a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including district officials, community members, and local businesses, to work together towards more equitable and inclusive procurement practices. The goal should not only be to meet the numerical targets but to foster a district ecosystem that truly reflects the diversity and values of the community it serves.
just my thoughts…rwb