Contracting has been a feature of western civilization for millennia; one privatization researcher has noted that the ancient Greeks contracted for removal of resources from publicly owned forests and mines. Nevertheless, experience has shown that contracting can sometimes fail and can also be controversial. The balance of this primer discusses what steps can be taken to facilitate sound bidding and monitoring of a contract for school transportation, food or custodial services.
The first critical element in good contracting is understanding the contracting process itself, beginning with the “Request for Proposal.” An RFP is an official document issued by the school district to solicit bids from private vendors for a particular service, in light of the service specifications and contract criteria set forth in the RFP itself. An RFP, then, invites potential vendors to submit bids that offer to meet or exceed the district’s quality expectations at a competitive price.[xxxvii]
[xxxvii] Hence, an RFP is not an “Invitation to Bid.” An invitation to bid (or “invitation for bid”) is generally intended to elicit the lowest possible price for a specific good or service. In contrast, an RFP and the subsequent bidding are meant to promote a high quality of service as well as a low price.