Choice Partners national purchasing cooperative offers quality, legal procurement and contract solutions to meet government purchasing requirements. We also meet all cooperative requirements of the EDGAR/Uniform Guidance/2 CFR 200!  

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q : 0. What is Harris County Department of Education?
A :

Harris County Department of Education is a public entity dedicated to helping meet the needs of uniquely challenged learners and school staff in the state’s largest county through innovative programming and support services. HCDE directly serves approximately 30,000 students with four alternative campuses, therapy services provided in local schools, 17 Head Start centers for early childhood education, after-school programming in dozens of community and school settings and the largest adult education program in Texas.  

HCDE also supports educators and school staff with professional development opportunities in diverse instructional areas ranging from core content to special populations and educational technology, as well as offers programs supporting school safety and alternative certification. The department provides valuable operational support to districts and public agencies in Harris County in the form of an advanced records management system, facilities planning and purchasing power through the Choice Partners program.

These services are supported through a property tax of approximately ½ cent (about $9 annually for the average Harris County homeowner) as well as a revenue-generating model for some divisions. With this funding, HCDE provides savings to Harris County’s 25 school districts, allowing districts to keep money in the classroom and preserve their own tax rates. HCDE has lowered its tax rate for the last five years, consistently staying below the effective tax rate, providing an exceptional value to Harris County taxpayers.

Is HCDE a governmental agency?  here.

See the benefits for membership to learn more.

Q : 1. What is Choice Partners?
A :

Choice Partners was created by the merger of three Harris County Department of Education procurement cooperatives, Choice Facility Partners, Gulf Coast Food Co-op and HCDE Purchasing Cooperative.  Choice Partners is a national cooperative purchasing service with legally procured contracts. Using these contracts streamlines purchasing, saving time and money for governmental organizations and nonprofits. A division of Harris County Department of Education, organizations in Texas that want to use these competitively bid and legally awarded contracts, sign an interlocal, government-to-government contract.  Organizations outside Texas may just sign up and follow their state procurement laws.

Q : 2. Who is eligible to use Choice Partners?
A :

Schools, colleges, universities, municipalities, counties, state agencies and other governmental entities, and nonprofits may join and use Choice Partners contracts.

Private schools and higher education organizations that operate as nonprofit organizations may also become members.

Q : 3. What does it cost to use Choice Partners?
A :

There is no charge to client members to join Choice Partners and no charge to use Choice Partners national cooperative contracts; vendor partners pay a small percentage fee back to Choice Partners.  This fee is clearly stated in the vendor's contract prior to being executed and this fee is included in all pricing from the vendors to Choice Partners.

Fee schedule for our vendors.

Q : 4. Why should we join Choice Partners national cooperative? We are already in other co-ops.
A :

All cooperatives are not the same. Choice Partners national cooperative offers:

1) Contracts for vendors and items that are not available through other cooperatives, such as:
     a. Contracts for facilities services, which are legal according to Texas procurement law. As the leader in facility contracts, Choice Partners has initiated new cooperative concepts for facilities that have raised the standard in the industry.
      b. Contracts that meet today's needs, such as technology cloud services contracts.

2) Contracts with terms and conditions that differ from other co-op contracts; e.g. members order directly from vendors.

3) True government-to-government cooperative contracts, per Intergovernmental Code 791. As a division of Harris County Department of Education, Choice Partners is a true government entity. Choice Partners contracts have been awarded and approved by the publicly elected board of HCDE for maximum transparency and compliance.  All contracts are 2 CFR 200 compliant.

4) Ombudsman service to solve issues between members and vendors. Our philosophy is it has to be a win for members, a win for vendors and a win for Choice Partners.

5) Free membership with no requirement to use the contracts, so joining just gives you additional options. The cost is zero to join, but having the contract when you need it is priceless.

6) Contracts that we use here at HCDE! We have evaluated all contracts for best value, and we (HCDE) are using them so we have experience with our vendors.

Q : 5. Does Choice Partners follow EDGAR/2 CFR 200/Uniform Guidance regulations?
A :

Yes. Choice Partners follows EDGAR/2 CFR 200/Uniform Guidance regulations for every procurement action to ensure that Choice members may use Choice Partners’ cooperative contracts when using federal funds.  Specifically, because at the time of procurement, Choice Partners is unable to determine which of its procurements/contracts will be used by CP members using federal funds, Choice Partners intends to competitively procure each and every contract awarded by Choice Partners under Section 44.031 of the Texas Education Code and intends to comply with EDGAR/2 CFR 200/Uniform Guidance for every procurement action.  (See our complete EDGAR compliance letter).

As a Cooperative, Choice Partners follows the most restrictive of state and federal procurement rules.  (letter)  Including all new requirements for Child Nutrition.

Q : 6. What is EDGAR?
A :

The Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) are the federal regulations that govern all federal grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education on or after Dec. 26, 2014. (EDGAR)

What is EDGAR today? (EDGAR)

Q : 7. What are the benefits of using Choice Partners?
A :

Choice Partners national cooperative provides best value contracts for services which:

  1. Save staff time in purchasing - Contracts are already competitively procured
  2. Save staff time in construction, purchasing and food services
  3. Save money
  4. Improve efficiency
  5. Extend staff time through use of these contracts.
  6. All contracts are 2 CFR 200 (EDGAR, Uniform Guidance) compliant (see below for compliance letter) 
Q : 8. How can governmental entities legally make purchases through Choice Partners?
A :

In Texas, legal, competitively-procured contracts may be used under Title 7 of the Governmental Code Chapter 791 and under Title 8 of the Local Government Code Chapters 262 and 271.  Education Code - Section 44.031 specifies that school districts are allowed to use an interlocal contract for purchasing. Governing boards of entities that have approved and signed an interlocal contract with Choice Partners/HCDE can use the awarded contracts.  As of Sept. 1, 2011, Texas Government Code 2269 took effect for governmental entities (except higher education), which governs procurement of construction services.  Outside Texas, governmental entities are responsible to ensure they are meeting the law and following the applicable state purchasing policies. Generally, the competitive procurement process used by Choice Partners meets the requirements of most states. Check the statutes for all states here.

Q : 9. Does Choice Partners have a "lead agency?"
A :

Harris County Department of Education created one of the first, if not the first, government cooperatives in Texas in the 1960s, which is now called Choice Partners. As a division of a government agency, Choice Partners contracts are awarded by the HCDE governing board of trustees. Interlocal government-to-government agreements are between HCDE and the government entity wishing to use the Choice Partners cooperative contracts.

Because Choice Partners is a division of Harris County Department of Education, it does not need an additional affiliation to make its operation legal. Some cooperatives are not based in a government entity, so must affiliate with one so they will have a government “lead agency.” Using that language, HCDE is the lead agency for Choice Partners.

Q : 10. How can a governmental organization or nonprofit access these services?
A :

Become a member. 
Organizations and governing boards of governmental entities shall sign an interlocal contract, assigning to Choice Partners the responsibility for legally and competitively procuring the services Choice Partners makes available through the cooperative.

Outside Texas:  Follow the appropriate state statutes, signing the interlocal contract, if necessary.

Q : 11. Why use Choice Partners national cooperative over another cooperative?
A :

Choice Partners national cooperative helps cities, counties, universities and colleges, government entities and nonprofits by providing quality services, legal procurement and contract solutions. HCDE created the first government cooperative in Texas and today, through Choice Partners, now offers more than 600 awarded contracts. Any revenue that exceeds expenses for providing the procurement services supports education.

Choice Partners was the leader in procuring facilities services, and today also provides training to our members.  Though based in Texas, governmental entities nationwide can use many of the Choice Partners national cooperative contracts, similar to other national purchasing cooperatives.

When determining which cooperative to use, check to see if the cooperative is operating legally in your state. For example, a buying group that could be legal in some states is NOT legal in Texas. (Government Code 791)  See the checklist for tips to ensure a cooperative is legal. 

Q : 12. Once the interlocal has been signed and turned into CP, how can an entity do business using a partner with an awarded contract?
A :

Once the organization/entity has signed the contract (or if outside of Texas, signed up), it may purchase services from the vendor partner using the cooperative purchasing contract. The member contacts the Choice Partners awarded vendor they wish to use, then issues a purchase order to that vendor. The contract number of the cooperative purchasing contract should be included on the purchase order, which makes it a legal purchase. A copy of the purchase order is entered into the Choice Partners Order Portal by any member of your team with a login.  

Q : 13. How can companies receive a contract award and become a Choice Partners vendor partner?
A :

Companies must respond to a Request For Proposal (RFP), Request for Qualifications (RFQ) or Competitive Sealed Proposal (CSP) issued by Choice Partners national cooperative. Companies may sign up as a bidder, then they will be notified if a solicitation is posted for their commodity or service.

Q : 14. What is a Job Order Contract (JOC)?
A :

Job Order Contracts are relational, performance-based contracts where the facility services partner continually interacts and collaborates to provide construction services. Different from Design/Build, JOC is effectively and efficiently used to manage minor construction, maintenance, repair, alteration, renovation or remediation services.  Actively used for years in the military, JOC has been a legal, well-recognized delivery method for public entities since 1995.

Job Order Contracting is now defined as a method of procurement for construction, according to Texas Government Code 2269 and is no longer defined as a delivery method for construction.

Learn more about how to make purchases for maintenance and construction.

Q : 15. What is Choice Partner's procurement process?
A :
  1. Choice Partners issues the solicitation, usually a Request For Proposal or Competitive Sealed Proposal.
  2. The solicitation is advertised per state statute.
  3. Interested companies submit a sealed response by the due date.  Responses are opened at given date and time.
  4. Responses are reviewed, evaluated and tabulated with references checked.
  5. The evaluation committee makes a recommendation and places it on the next board agenda.
  6. The HCDE governing board awards the contract at a scheduled board meeting.
  7. Successful proposers become Choice Partners awarded contract holders.
Q : 16. Where can I find more information about Choice Partners?
A :

To download the full Choice Partners brochure, click here. 

Thank you for your interest in Choice Partners!

Q : 17. How do I stay compliant with state law for competitive procurement using Choice Partners?
A :

Choice Partners must have a copy of the purchase order in order for the purchase to be considered a Choice Partners procurement.  To ensure compliance with Texas state law for competitive procurement, you, the member, must enter your PO's/contract usage into the Order Portal upon login.  This can be done daily, monthly, quarterly or yearly.  

Q : 18. When Choice Partners issues a solicitation, do they check Federal Debarment (SAMS) before award of a contract?
A :

Yes - prior to submission to the Board of Trustees for approval to Award, Choice Partners conducts Federal Debarment (SAMS) reviews of every vendor.  We still recommend you doing your own checking of SAMS to ensure you are not using a debarred vendor.

Q : 19. Does Choice Partners run the debarment every year or is it only conducted when the contract is awarded.
A :

Debarment reviews utilizing the SAMS website are conducted a minimum of annually, prior to award of both new and renewal contracts.  For example, if the contract is one (1) year with option to renew for up to four  (4) additional years - then, if the parties agree to activate all four potential years of the agreement; then four (4) SAMS reports will be conducted during the life of the contract.  Checks also can be run during a contract year - if needed.  As of June, 2019 we will run SAMs report every year on all contracts for a period of 4-5 years, since our contracts will only be given for 4 or 5 years. (New TDA guidelines). As of April 4, 2022, all vendors must have a Unique Entity Identifier number from and the DUNS number can be removed.  

Further, we recommend that during the life of the contract, the member may want to check the SAMS report themselves since the vendor can be put on this listing at any time during the year.  

Q : 20. What is Due Diligence and how do we get to it?
A :

Our Due Diligence folders are available upon login by our members.  The due diligence folders contains all of the necessary purchasing documents to see that we are legal, competitively bid contracts following federal, state and local law.  

Due Diligence Outline
1 XX-XXX Independent Estimate (IED) 
2 XX-XXX Advertisements & Affidavits
3 XX-XXX RFP/CSP Document
4 XX-XXX Participation List
5 XX-XXX Bid Tabulation
6 XX-XXX Evaluation Summary
7 XX-XXX Vendor's Response YY 0
7 XX-XXX Vendor's Response YY 1
7 XX-XXX Vendor's Response YY 2
7 XX-XXX Vendor's Response YY 3
7 XX-XXX Vendor's Response YY 4
8 XX-XXX Vendor's Award Letter
9 XX-XXX Vendor's Contract w/ T's and C's
10 XX-XXX Vendor's EDGAR, 1295, SAM
10 XX-XXX Vendor's R1 EDGAR, SAM 
10 XX-XXX Vendor's R2 EDGAR, SAM 
10 XX-XXX Vendor's R3 EDGAR, SAM 
10 XX-XXX Vendor's R4 EDGAR, SAM 
11 XX-XXX Board approval document
12 XX-XXX Vendor's pricing, if applicable
13 XX-XXX Cost/Price Analysis 1
13 XX-XXX Cost/Price Analysis 2
13 XX-XXX Cost/Price Analysis 3
13 XX-XXX Cost/Price Analysis 4