Educational Service Districts (ESDs) in the state of Washington are political subdivisions of the state that are organized and operate in accordance with state statutes. ESDs provide a range of services to or on behalf of school districts and educational organizations.
ESD enabling legislation is codified in chapter 28A.310 of the Revised Code of Washington. Among other things, Chapter 28A.310 authorizes ESDs to enter into contracts and to provide informational and cooperative services and programs. RCW 28A.310.010. outlines the intent to establish educational service districts (ESDs) as regional agencies and what they are intended for. ESDs, in cooperation with school districts, have explicit authority to establish joint purchasing programs. RCW 28A.310.180(3).
Educational Service District 112 (ESD 112) was asked to procure competitive bids for technology equipment and materials for school districts so ESD 112 and the districts could secure better pricing than they could procure if they solicited bids on their own. DigitalEdge, the ESD 112 cooperative purchasing program for technology equipment, was established to provide this service.
DigitalEdge procures competitive bids for technology equipment in accordance with Washington laws that govern public contracts for school districts. These laws are found in RCW 28A.335.190.
According to RCW 28A.335.190(2), if a school district is going to purchase furniture, equipment or supplies that cost more than $40,000, the district must use a competitive process to select the vendor they will purchase the equipment from. Districts may obtain quotes if the purchase will not exceed $75,000. If the cost to purchase equipment may exceed $75,000, school districts must prepare plans and specifications and make them available to interested vendors. RCW 28A.335.190(1) and (2). Districts must publish notice they will accept sealed bids with the price the bidder is offering to sell the equipment for. RCW 28A.335.190(1). The notice is published once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation within the district. Id. In addition to notifying bidders of the location where they can review the plans and specifications, the notice informs bidders of the date, time and place the district will open and read sealed bids. Id. After the bids are opened, the district must award a contract to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, unless the district rejects all the bids. RCW 28A.335.190(5). Responsible bidder is defined in RCW 39.26.160 (2).
A school district that does not utilize a competitive process to procure equipment that costs more than $40,000, may be found to have violated state law. A school district, can however, avoid the costs associated with procuring its own competitive bid if the district signs an interlocal agreement with an ESD. This is reflected in the Interlocal Cooperation Act, codified in RCW 39.34. According to RCW 39.34.030(5)(b), a school district that has entered into an interlocal agreement with an ESD (or another public agency) is not obligated to comply with the notice requirements in RCW 28A.335.190 for bid solicitations, as long as the ESD (or public agency it signed an interlocal agreement with) complied with the statutory requirements for procuring a competitive bid and posted the bid solicitation on a web site established and maintained by a public agency or purchasing cooperative. Similar provisions are found in other state's intergovernmental cooperation statutes.
ESD 112's DigitalEdge program procures competitive bids in accordance with applicable Washington laws and makes its competitive bid available to school districts and other educational agencies who want to purchase technology equipment for the price and terms set forth in the DigitalEdge contract. School districts, educational organizations and state departments of education are encouraged to review their own state laws, board policies and regulations to ensure they are acting within their own legal authority when they purchase from the DigitalEdge contract.