School & District Management Opinion

School Improvement RFP of the Week

By Marc Dean Millot — May 05, 2008 3 min read
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Florida District Considers Extra-Curricular Academic Offerings for Extended School Days a Revenue Opportunity

From Monday’s issue of K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report

Announcement: Extracurricular Activities for Extended Day Due May 22 (Apr 29) Saint Johns County School District, Florida

Their Description:

The St. Johns County School District is seeking quotes to secure extracurricular activities for the extended day programs at select elementary schools.... Vendors will be awarded based on... the following:

• Curriculum/Instructional Content (30 points)
• Costs to the Student/Parent (25 points)
• Qualification & Experience of the Instructor (20 points)
Percentage Returned to the School (20 points) (emphasis added)
• Correctly Completed and Signed Quote (5 points)....

Parents of students enrolled to participate in this program will make their checks payable to the awarded vendor.... The agreed upon percentage payable by the vendor to the school for building use will be charged for all students on the roster whether or not payment has been received from the participant.

Quotes will be accepted for the following categories:

Arts & Crafts
Dance (Tap, Hip Hop, Jazz, Ballet, etc)

Sign Language
Creative Writing
Creative Science

Physical Training – Fitness
Martial Arts/Karate

Participants will be limited to the Extended Day Program students. At the Principal’s discretion, other participants may join the program under the same terms and conditions as awarded from this bid.

My Thoughts: Readers may be familiar with “slotting fees.” This is the practice in which supermarket chains charge manufacturers for eye-level placement on stores’ shelves. Consider this, from an article in Forbes.

This much is known: Real estate on the grocery shelves is largely allocated according to clout and to money passing to the retailer, either in fees or price discounts.... For a new product the standard price of admission to the shelves is a slotting fee—up to $25,000 per item for a regional cluster of stores.... Small manufacturers hate paying upfront money; it can put them out of business before they’ve even started.

I’m not opposed to the district collecting fees from the sales generated by outside vendors. It’s reasonable to reimburse districts for the use of school space and amenities - prices that can be fixed up front in the RFP process. It’s also possible to set an additional fee up front that amounts to profit. Both practices put the competition back to the merits - where they belong.

Most of the slots offered by St. Johns are non-academic, but several clearly play a role in student performance measured by state tests. Tutoring is particularly relevant. It seems to me that administrators should be filling these offerings based on their academic value-added to students rather than the cash value added to the treasury.

When private services are offered on public school grounds under a process by which the district selects vendors, parents have good reason to believe the services are of the highest quality. Under this RFP’s scheme it’s entirely possible that a higher quality provider will lose out to one of lower quality because of the profit offered to the district. That doesn’t seem right - and it’s not all that helpful to the school improvement industry’s image.

Marc Dean Millot is the editor of School Improvement Industry Week and K-12 Leads and Youth Service Markets Report. His firm provides independent information and advisory services to business, government and research organizations in public education.

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