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How States Can Leverage Purchasing Power to Support 1:1 Learning

One of the core principals of our education system is that decision-making authority, especially related to how funds should be spent, should be placed as close to the students as possible. That can often mean that many purchasing decisions are shifted from the school district to the individual school level. As a result, state departments of education rarely get involved with the purchasing of anything for schools. 

As a result, state departments of education rarely get involved with the purchasing of anything for schools. The recent challenges presented by the COVID-19 quarantines have highlighted connectivity and device access gaps in every state and has raised the question of how states can better support school districts. States can help school districts with the procurement of devices for students by leveraging state purchasing power and by aggregating and coordinating purchases from their states. Most importantly, states can provide leadership to ensure that school districts are not purchasing equipment without long-term plans for ongoing support, maintenance, and professional development. 

Many Departments of Education do not have significant experience with procurement, especially when it comes to the types of solutions needed to support one-to-one student learning in a K-12 environment. Fortunately, there is a wealth of experience embedded in a cooperative purchasing program maintained by the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO). 

MLTI OFFERS A TEMPLATE FOR OTHER STATES MLTI 

In 2013, the State of Maine, in cooperation with NASPO and partnership with the States of Vermont and Hawaii, leveraged a decade of experience to establish the Multi-State Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) cooperative purchasing contract. This contract was used by the State of Maine to power the fourth major deployment of its statewide one-to-one program. The contract is unique in that it is an agreement for services – it’s not a commodity purchasing contract, but instead a suite of services that empowers states and school districts to work together with industry partners to support teachers and students with advanced technology for teaching and learning.

This fall, Maine will begin the 19th year of its statewide one-to-one program that now includes teachers who were provided MLTI laptop computers to support their learning when they were students. There are even some Maine students whose parents were “MLTI students.” In 2013, Maine used the contract to deploy over 80,000 tablets (iOS) and laptops (Mac OS and Windows 10) to students and educators in every public school district in the state and numerous private and parochial schools as well.  In 2016, the State of Nevada successfully used the contract to provide devices and all of the necessary support to empower its Nevada Ready 21 program that has enabled over 20,000 students and teachers in Nevada schools to be equipped with one-to-one Chromebooks. 

A ROADMAP FOR STATES TO LEVERAGE THEIR PURCHASING POWER

The MLTI contract acts as a basis for establishing a comprehensive solution for states and school districts for one-to-one anytime, anywhere learning. It includes not only devices, but also includes warranty, repair services, technical support, asset management, software, carrying cases, replacements, project management, and professional development for teachers, IT staff, and school leadership. All common platforms, including iOS (iPad), Mac OS, Windows, and Chrome have been deployed via the contract already, providing states the flexibility to negotiate contracts to provide equipment that match school district infrastructure and pre-existing platforms and software.

The pricing and deployment of the solutions were planned out to allow states a staged approach depending on their needs and state policies. The contract laid out a roadmap for states that can begin simply as a state master contract that allows school districts to leverage the contract for local purchasing. States can take a further step and act as a purchasing aggregator and ensure that all school districts are aware of the opportunity to join the purchasing cooperative. The larger the cohort, the better the potential savings. 

Additionally, states can provide management and coordination at the state level –  for example, the coordination of regional professional development provided through the contract. Ultimately, like both Maine and Nevada, states can pass legislation that appropriates funding to support the programs and other centralized services, and ensure that regional and state broadband networks are available. The specific details of these solutions will vary from state to state, and professional development programs should be adjusted to meet current needs – but the heavy lifting has already been done. 

NEXT STEPS

To learn more about the agreement, watch our webinar on How to Leverage State Cooperative Purchasing Power to Support 1:1 Learning

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