A district can certainly look at the specifications in other school districts’ contracts, but district officials should ultimately decide on the RFP and contract specifications independently. In particular, they should not consult potential vendors regarding these specifications. It may be tempting to ask a vendor for help given the vendor’s expertise and the complexity of the contracting process, but vendor participation in creating specifications is clearly contrary to the district’s own best interests.
First, in food contracting, conferring with a vendor on RFP specifications is prohibited by the federal government. Second, there is a good reason for this prohibition, so districts should avoid such practices even when contracting other school support services. The prohibition exists because too many districts (not necessarily in Michigan) have relied on specifications that may have been designed to thwart rather than facilitate competition. Even a contractor with the best of intentions may subtly skew the RFP in ways that limit the number of competitors or deny the district the wide range of bids that are most likely to provide low cost and high quality service.