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Professional Opinion

Best kept secret for security funding

New purchasing method may speed up processing time and save money

When upgrading security, can districts afford to wait the weeks or months the purchasing process sometimes takes? A widely available but not very well-known funding option can speed things up.

We know there is a sense of urgency around funding safer schools—just think about the title of President Obama’s school safety plan: Now is the Time! The good news is that for district leaders who are willing to explore a new purchasing method, time and cost savings may be on the way.

There is another way!

The federal government recognizes the importance of protecting schools and communities. In January 2013, President Obama signed a 23-point plan to make schools and communities safer. The General Services Administration (GSA), often referred to as the government’s savings agency, is a vehicle to help educators accomplish this goal.

Public elementary, middle, and high schools, and free public charter schools are eligible to use GSA funding. And its Cooperative Purchasing Program is a district’s best-kept secret for creating a safer school environment.

Districts can use the program to purchase security products and services at affordable prices from pre-vetted vendors. Products districts have purchased include security cameras and surveillance systems; emergency communications equipment; security consulting services; security design and support services; alarm and access control systems; and Personal Identity Verification (PIV) credentialing services.

The Cooperative Purchasing Program provides you with a broad selection of approved vendors that can be used at any time with any funds available. Vendors can be found on the GSA Schedules website or through GSA Advantage!, the GSA online shopping and ordering system. Public schools that use the GSA Schedule must still follow state and local procurement regulations.

Why use GSA Cooperative Purchasing?

A GSA Schedule is a long-term government-wide contract that establishes set prices and terms for procuring supplies and services. Two schedules are applicable to purchasing security solutions: Schedule 70 and Schedule 84.

Schedule 70 allows for buying technology-based security solutions. And Schedule 84 allows for buying most security products and services. Additional funding may also be available through U.S. Disaster and Homeland Security purchasing schedules.

GSA schedules set a “catalog-fixed top price” for the product or service. These prices can be reduced when companies are competing for a contract with a district, thus potentially saving schools money.

And because the pricing is listed by single unit, multiples and volume discount pricing can also be negotiated. Buyers also can issue a request for quotation to obtain pricing from vendors who can meet their requirements.

The benefits to a district are plentiful. You do not have to research potential security partners, as the GSA process has pre-vetted its vendors. Companies go through an intensive vetting process to participate in the GSA program.

You do not have to worry about negotiating the best prices because the GSA program has already pre-negotiated ceiling prices. And although basic procurement processes still need to be followed, the GSA program allows for establishing certain basic term agreements to streamline the process.

How to get started using GSA Cooperative Purchasing

To start, learn all you can about GSA purchasing and how it might be best put to work for you. You can find a ton of resources at on the GSA website. They even have a page dedicated specifically to the purchase of security solutions.

You can also contact your regional GSA representative. GSA representatives speak with school districts and local municipalities frequently. They welcome you to contact your local customer region for service and share this message from GSA Regional Administrator Robert Zarnetske:

“We are all in this boat together. We need to find ways to work together. We are committed to local districts and want to help them get the best prices. This can happen if we work together.”

Paula Love is president of, which offers customized funding matchmaking products and services tailored to the security industry.