When it comes to serving Florida’s most disadvantaged K-12 students through opportunity scholarships, Step Up For Students leaders always look for ways to better serve its families, which for the 2017-18 school year means about 115,000 scholars.
So, when the nonprofit scholarship organization heard the calls of frustrated Gardiner Scholarship parents, an idea emerged to assist the nearly 10,000 children with special needs who use education savings accounts: Create a user-friendly online marketplace to make purchasing for scholars simpler.
Soon after, Step Up For Students partnered with SAP Ariba and Premikati, which combined are a powerhouse in buying power, process management and creating online purchasing systems. In January, the fruits of their labor will launch as a first-of-its-kind innovative online purchasing system specifically for Step Up Gardiner scholars who have Education Savings Accounts.
MyScholarShop will be formally introduced by Jonathan Beckham, vice president of Technology Strategy and Innovation at Step Up For Students when the nation’s leaders in education policy descend on Nashville Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 for the 10th annual ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education Reform. Those leaders include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who created the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which hosts the event, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Steve Perry of Capital Preparatory Schools, Hadi Partovi of Code.org, Dr. Brooke Stafford-Brizard, Director, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
“Our mission is to empower parents to pursue and engage in the most appropriate learning options for their children,” said Beckham. “We’re excited to announce this platform that allows us to accelerate our mission and create a holistic data driven personalized education model.”
About three years ago, the state-funded Gardiner Scholarship Program was created by the Florida Legislature as an education savings account (ESA), through which most scholars receive an average of $10,000 per academic year. It serves students with certain special needs, including among others, children with autism spectrum disorder, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Step Up For Students approves all eligible purchases and the parents are reimbursed. This is where challenges came into the mix. While the criteria for the scholarship is not income-based, many families who have mounting medical bills – or who are lower-income – don’t always have the money to pay up front.
“For some families, it became an unsettling balancing act. They had to make life choices that sometimes could mean paying a household bill late while awaiting reimbursement for Gardiner purchases that could sometimes take up to four weeks,” said Step Up Chief Operating Officer Anne White.
Submitting for reimbursements and rounding up receipts, also could be tedious, she added. A change was needed to give parents some time back so they could give more attention to their children.
When MyScholarShop is released in January, parents won’t have to worry about paying for school-related supplies and services up front. They will simply go online to the pre-approved catalog and “Pick It, Click It, Ship It.” The cost will be taken directly from scholars’ accounts and supplies will be delivered right to their doors.
“Step Up for Students’ use of the technology is unique in that the users are not actually employees but rather students and their families,” said Premikati CEO Marisol Buczynski Buchanan. “While challenging from a change management perspective, Premikati’s approach has always been to make processes as simple as possible which is absolutely critical in this instance and could not have been accomplished without recent SAP Ariba innovations.”
Michael Maguire, SAP Ariba’s Global vice president of New Market Development agreed everything aligned to make this a strong partnership.
“The recent release of SAP Ariba Snap along with Guided Buying was ideal timing for MyScholarShop, simplifying the ordering process for users that may not be familiar with typical business class procurement technology,” he said.
Eventually, MyScholarShop will be rolled out to Step Up’s income-based Florida Tax Credit scholars, and additional features will be added such as a product and service provider rating system, so families can assist each other in making appropriate selections for their children.
Between both scholarship programs, 115,000 scholars are being served for the 2017-18 school year. About 500,000 checks are printed and mailed out each year to pay for school tuition, educational related services and supplies. Most of that will be eliminated. By leveraging direct pay, Step Up For Students avoids the costly process of printing and mailing checks.
Streamlining processes will allow Step Up For Students to give parents a bit of a relief and better serve our scholars.
“In the end,” White said, “that’s the ultimate goal.”
About Step Up For Students
Step Up For Students is a nonprofit organization that helps manage the income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Students who qualify for the national free or reduced-price lunch program, or those who are homeless or in foster or out-of-home care, may qualify. The scholarship program provides tuition assistance to the private school of their parents’ choice or financial assistance to offset the transportation cost to an out-of-district public school.
Step Up also helps administer the state-funded Gardiner Scholarship Program for Florida students with certain special needs. With the Gardiner Scholarship, recipients may use the funds for a variety of approved services including private school tuition and fees, private tutoring, occupational therapy, instructional materials and other services. For more information, visit www.StepUpForStudents.org.
Founded in 2009, Premikati, Inc. is a WBENC certified woman-owned Supply Chain Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm, providing cost savings and financial, contractual and supplier risk mitigation services to purchasing organizations for mid and large enterprises while leveraging best-in-class purchasing processes and technology. Premikati has partnered with SAP and is one of only five companies globally to have been granted a BPO Resell Partnership with SAP Ariba. Additionally, Premikati is now embarking two new lines of business; a national Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) for the K-12 education space and non-profits, and orchestrating a Minority and Woman Business Enterprise (MWBE) catalog of suppliers to support the swell of demand by Fortune, government and private sectors.
Premikati employs procurement executives, attorneys, contract management professionals, technology experts, Six Sigma Black Belts, and certified Change Masters with extensive experience either inside or consulting with the world’s top companies. To learn more about Premikati, visit www.premikati.com .
About SAP Ariba
SAP Ariba is how companies connect to get business done. On the Ariba Network, buyers and suppliers from more than 2.8 million companies and 190 countries discover new opportunities, collaborate on transactions and grow their relationships. Buyers can manage the entire purchasing process, while controlling spending, finding new sources of savings and building a healthy supply chain. And suppliers can connect with profitable customers and efficiently scale existing relationships – simplifying sales cycles and improving cash control along the way. The result is a dynamic, digital marketplace, where nearly $1 trillion in commerce gets done every year. To learn more about SAP Ariba, visit www.ariba.com.