A Quick-Reference Guide for Charter School Procurement Compliance
With multiple layers of procurement rules, policies and reporting requirements to navigate, compliance may seem like a trip through Dante’s Inferno for school procurement people. But as much of a headache as figuring out and following all those rules and regs can be, the process becomes eminently more manageable once you know the lay of the land.
Here, then, is a quick overview of the charter school procurement compliance landscape, with some tips for how to navigate it, so you and your staff can spend more time on the strategic aspects of purchasing and less time worrying about the rules — and what circle of hell you might land in if you run afoul of them.
- Your charter school likely has internal purchasing policy/guidelines (approved by the school’s board of directors, typically) specifying dollar amount thresholds for when multiple bids must be solicited and/or when an RFP must be issued, standards and criteria for evaluating bids, as well as requirements that may apply to vendors/suppliers and more. To learn about any internal procurement requirements at your school, ask the school’s attorney and/or the school CFO, operations manager or equivalent.
- If an entity other than a school district authorizes your charter school, the authorizer may have purchasing requirements or guidelines of its own to which schools in its “portfolio” must conform, including RFP and competitive bid requirements, payment processes and more. To learn about those requirements or guidelines, ask your school attorney and/or check the terms of the contract your school has with the authorizer.
- If your charter school operates as part of a school district, it’s possible that some or all of the district’s requirements or guidelines related to bid and RFP processes apply to its charter schools as well. To confirm what the rules and procedures are and if they apply, look online (districts often post them on their websites), contact the district’s purchasing/procurement department directly, or ask your school attorney.
- State agencies, such as the state Department of Education, also may prescribe purchasing requirements and practices for schools within their purview to follow. These rules may be especially pertinent in cases where a charter school is using state money, such as grant funds. For details on whether state guidelines apply to your school, look online at the department’s website and ask your school attorney.
- State laws/statutes may also apply to charter school procurement practices. To find out if they do, ask your school attorney.
- Your school also may have to comply with procurement rules set by the federal government, and the U.S. Dept. of Education in particular, especially if your charter school is using federal earmarks or grant funds. Those federal rules are collectively known as EDGAR, short for Education Department General Administrative Regulations, and they include an exhaustive set of requirements for how schools can spend federal funds, including grant money. Here’s another instance where your school attorney may be able to provide insight, as the EDGAR resources available online from the U.S. Department of Education can be tortuous to navigate. For the intrepid, visit https://www2.ed.gov/policy/fund/reg/edgarReg/edgar.html to begin that online journey. Also check specific grant-related documents for details.
Keep in mind, too, that if your school relies on restricted funds — grants or endowments from public or private sources — to any extent, those funds likely will have certain requirements or guidelines attached to them by the entity providing the funds. Be sure you’re clear on those requirements or guidelines before spending any restricted funds. Again, check documents related to the specific grant for details, then ask your school attorney.
Note: All of BuyQ’s awarded vendors are selected through an open and competitive RFP process that meet many of the purchasing requirements detailed here. If you’re not sure if BuyQ’s process meets your school’s purchasing requirements, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request guidance based on your specific school.