denver school classroom
In this Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015 file photo, former US Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits with 9-year-old Nadia Garcia in a third grade classroom at McGlone Elementary School in Denver.
  • In 2017, Amazon signed a national contract with a co-op that buys products (e.g. school and office supplies, electronics, and library books) for 1,500 cities, counties, and school districts across the US. Public funds, often through taxes, pay for these Amazon products.
  • The co-op says that Amazon could receive up to $5.5 billion over the next 11 years.
  • A new report from the Institute of Self Reliance looks at purchasing totals from 60 cities, counties, and school districts in 2016.
  • The report’s authors argue that relying on Amazon to buy public goods undermines local retailers or national chains with local stores.

When cities, counties, and public school districts need to buy office and classroom supplies, computers, musical instruments, and library books, they often consult purchasing co-ops. One of the largest of these co-ops is US Communities, which negotiates contracts with retailers. Cities then use public funding to buy the products.

In 2017, Amazon signed a contract with US Communities to provide its products to 1,500 public agencies, ranging from Atlanta Public Schools to the Mesa, Arizona police department. According to the co-op, Amazon could receive up to $5.5 billion over the next 11 years (or $500 million a year) as a result. While not every Amazon product is available through the deal, it includes a range of categories for products from Amazon Basics and various brands.

The contract could hinder local or national retailers that would otherwise be able to sell their products to local governments….