Maine is nearly ready to enter a new contract cycle for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, and is currently working to craft a new request for proposals from vendors.
The DOE is considering exercising an organizational agreement that would allow other states to buy-in to the terms of our contract.
I recently shared my concerns about this possibility with both Commissioner Bowen and state Tech Director Jeff Mao, and asked them to please consider NOT framing the new MLTI RFP as a multi-state buy-in.
It is generous that the tech director is thinking about how he might help other states by using a provision that would allow other states to essentially access the same agreement that we reach with the successful vendor.
But I’m afraid I don’t see how such an arrangement will benefit us (Maine) and, in fact, I’m worried that it will hurt us. I have worked in both the public sector and the private sector, and although I can see why other states might like the option, I can’t imagine that vendors would.
If part of the motivation is to get a better price by suggesting they’d sell more units (and I admittedly don’t know the reasons the DOE is considering including the option allowing other states to sign on), then I worry that the reasoning is false. I would think that a vendor is more likely to give a better price to a single, well-designed, targeted initiative that had a good chance to showcase their solution.
Also, if our RFP is based on the kinds of changes in learning we’d like to promote (as I advocated in my previous post), it would generate the kinds of proposals that might include very specific software solutions and professional development, as well as hardware and network solutions. These would all be based on Maine’s context, our schools, our learning. How do other states benefit from that? Maybe I could see that if MLTI were simply a tech buy, but we’re not. We’re a learning initiative.
I worry, too, that this arrangement would needlessly make things difficult for a vendor. I would imagine that, even if there is a provision in an agreement between states allowing other states to buy in given our terms, that the vendor would have to still negotiate separate contracts with each state. I don’t think that there is a way for a different state to buy on our terms without having a separate contract with the vendor. And I worry that that which makes things unnecessarily difficulty for a vendor only hurts Maine and the possibilities of our getting a proposal that would include an attractive solution that meets our needs.
And my biggest fear, is that if a multi-state buy-in option is awkward and difficult for vendors, then vendors who could offer us the most attractive solutions will simply choose not to submit a proposal. Frankly, I worry that quality potential applicants will choose not to submit a proposal.
And worse. We can’t even ask our best partner in MLTI what they think. I would imagine that Apple would feel, now that the DOE is working to shape the RFP, that they couldn’t talk to the state about any topic that might even be perceived as related to the RFP. I would imagine that any vendor would think that that was too close to conflict of interest, or even illegal. So a partner that has been very helpful in the past and always quick to collaborate with us on all our challenges is likely to now be a mute partner.
So, if you are also worried about the unintended consequences of including a multi-state buy-in option in the new MLTI RFP, please contact the Commissioner of Education (624-6620; email@example.com) and state Tech Director (624-6634; firstname.lastname@example.org) to encourage them to frame the RFP around Mane’s needs.