School districts displayed new trends for privatization this year. We have our first incidence of contracting out for a service decreased: Food service contracting declined modestly in net terms by 2.1 percent, though six new contracts were added for the year. Justification for insourcing was varied, ranging from expected savings to political concerns.
Custodial contracting continued its growth pattern, adding 16 new instances of contacting to the tally of districts contracting out for this service, or an increase of 17.6 percent. Transportation also grew this year and now covers 5.5 percent of Michigan districts. Custodial and transportation contracting saw a combined average growth rate of 15 percent (21.7 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively) over last year.
This year's survey again saw districts reporting savings and satisfaction at a very high rate. Some 77.9 percent reported seeing savings in their district (compared to 3 percent who reported no savings; the rest did not answer or were unsure) and 89.7 percent reported that they were satisfied with services (compared to 1.3 percent that reported no satisfaction and 9.1 percent that did not answer or were unsure).
Contracting out support services continues to be used as a way to contain costs and improve services. The 2008 survey has shown that more districts than ever before have taken advantage of privatization opportunities as a method of controlling costs. By saving money, contracting helps districts redirect funds back into the classroom. Additionally, superintendents shared that the powerful effect that competition enabled by the privatization option creates has a cost-cutting effect in negotiating with in-house bargaining units.
An in-depth assessment of school privatization in Michigan can be found in the Center's "School Privatization Primer."