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Purchasing Technology

Technology is the top purchasing priority for 76 percent of K12 districts.

AS THE MAGAZINE OF EDUCATION LEADERSHIP for top-level decision makers in K12 education, District Administration reaches key executives in virtually every school district in the United States, including superintendents, business officers, technology managers, curriculum directors, library/ media center directors and funding administrators. Certainly no one is better qualified to comment on current district spending than the readers of this magazine.

While District Administration publishes annual spending reports to provide insights into school markets, this year is different since we commissioned the independent research organization Martin Akel & Associates to conduct an extensive buying survey of our readers. Random samples of subscribers were drawn from districts across the country, and each individual received a questionnaire on purchasing activities and expenditures over a four-year period. Although the information focused on the 2006- 2007 academic year, the researchers also compiled trend data for the two preceding years and projections for the two succeeding years.

District Administration targets district-level administrators in the K12 market, and the survey found that these readers are heavily involved in brand and product decisions. Virtually all DA readers-97 percent-have leadership responsibilities in purchasing products and services, and 83 percent of subscribers are involved in making final decisions. Nine out of ten are opinion leaders, sought out by others and infl uencing them in making purchases; nine of ten-93 percent-are involved with teams or committees that determine purchases for their districts; and threequarters- 72 percent-have team management responsibilities. Buying decisions are not made in isolation.

The readership survey projected that the total 2006-2007 expenditures for purchasing goods and services across nearly 15,000 districts reached by District Administration magazine are $33.3 billion, which represents an enormous market. Th e first article in this series, in the September 2007 issue of DA, summarized the buying power of K12 executives and school districts, and the average and projected expenditures by category and district size. Subsequent articles will drill down on purchasing in the areas of curriculum, security, and construction and renovation. This month we focus on technology, which 76 percent of respondents ranked as a top purchasing priority.


U.S. districts spent $4.32 billion in 2006-2007 on technology products and services, and the average district spent $577,100. Subscribers were asked to indicate their current district's technology usage of products, equipment and systems in various categories, and their recent and planned purchase activities. The results are summarized in the chart below.


The survey also investigated the approval process for purchasing technology products and services and found that 91 percent of readers are involved in those processes. In addition, the survey examined the categories of staff members who participate in making selections and the reasons given for the prevalence of team decision-making.

Purchase Approval Levels

Two-thirds of the K12 districts-64 percent-require that all expenditures for technology be approved at the district level, rather than the school level. However, most of the districts have a relatively low threshold at which expenditures must receive district approval.

All expenditures, regardless of amount:

Expenditures more than $500

Expenditures more than $1,000

Expenditures more than $5,000

Expenditures at other levels

Team/Committee Purchase Decisions

Three-quarters of the districts-76 percent-use a team/committee approach to decide on purchasing new technology. The main reasons given are that the decision affects multiple areas in the district (65 percent) and that a team approach provides for a broader range of insights (57 percent). Respondents who use a team approach could indicate more than one reason.


Technology vendors selling to the K12 market must focus a large part of their efforts at the district level, since most districts require approval at that level. Plus, as shown earlier, district administrators not only approve purchases but are heavily involved in the initial stages as well. It is also important to note that three out of four districts use a team/committee approach in selecting technology, with an average of four diff erent types of professionals involved. Vendors must therefore make contact with all of these key players to properly brand their products.

The study found that most DA subscribers are responsible for selecting or rejecting brands of products, services and equipment, which we refer to as "brand building" and "brand burning," respectively. Of these, 96 percent of readers were involvedin decisions that led to the purchase of specific brands, and 93 percent were involved in decisions that led to specifi c brands being rejected. For example, in a three-month period, 60 percent of readers reported that they burned a specific brand, which underscores the continuing need for updated product information throughout the year.


As your go-to source for up-to-date and accurate information on products and services for K12 school districts, we offer various ways to keep you informed. In addition to an extensive new products section in each issue of DA magazine, we also provide a rapidly expanding products guide on our Web site www.DistrictAdministration. com/Products) that already has more than 1,500 products to view. Early in 2008 we will publish a special "thirteenth issue" devoted entirely to products and will name the "Readers' Choice Top 100 Products of 2007." Let us know what works best for your district by rating your favorite products on our site today.

Odvard Egil Dyrli,, is editor-in-chief of DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.