CCS on OhioMBE Wall of Shame: A LEDE Spending Crisis

The irony of a district, predominantly serving Black students and supported by Black taxpayers, failing to engage Black-owned businesses adequately is both concerning and reflective of broader systemic biases.

Under Superintendent Angela Chapman’s guidance, Columbus City Schools (CCS) continues grappling with longstanding issues in fairly engaging Black vendors. Despite Chapman’s ongoing learning curve, recent board meetings have exposed inefficiencies and theatrics within the administration, particularly by the interim COO and the director of Capital Improvements, leading to widespread frustration, including Chapman’s.

This lack of engagement with Black vendors, unfortunately, seems to be a recurring theme. A recent LEDE vendor fair, hosted by Capital Improvements, notably omitted the LEDE coordinator. The district’s supplier diversity expert was sidelined from Operations activities for six months. This pattern of oversight points to a systemic issue within CCS, where inequity prevails and incompetence is the gold standard. 

The disparity is stark in the financials for the fiscal year 2022-2023: white vendors received over $18 million, accounting for 63% of the LEDE spend, while Black vendors were allocated nearly $9 million, or 31%. This inequity is especially glaring given the district’s significant African American student demographic, calling for urgent systemic reform to ensure equitable contracting opportunities.

OhioMBE is holding CCS accountable by placing it on our Wall of Shame for not achieving the board’s 20% LEDE spending goal over the last decade, highlighting a disregard for Black vendors throughout business dealings. This calls for an immediate review of CCS’s contracting processes to ensure meaningful engagement with minority-owned businesses and to meet or exceed the 20% LEDE spending target.

This is more than a fiscal issue; it’s a systemic problem reflecting on the community’s trust and the district’s integrity. The discrepancy in LEDE spending underscores a failure to represent and support the community’s diversity through equitable business practices. It’s apparent that biases and stereotypes play a role in this disparity, with decisions often excluding Black vendors.

OhioMBE stands ready to work with CCS, community leaders, and vendors to monitor progress and advocate for practices that reflect the district’s and community’s values. We urge Columbus City Schools to foster an inclusive, equitable business environment, where minority vendors have fair access to contracting opportunities, thereby honoring their commitment to diversity and equity.

This situation is a call to action for all stakeholders to advocate for a procurement approach that truly reflects and values community diversity, beyond just meeting numerical targets. It’s a reminder of the broader challenges of racial and economic disparities that require collective effort to address.

just my thoughts…rwb