The privatization survey was conducted between May 14 and Sept. 3, 2010. The majority of survey responses were administered via telephone. Those responding to the survey were superintendents, business managers, assistant superintendents, administrative directors and administrative assistants. Districts requesting that the survey be provided in written form or administered through a Freedom of Information Act request were sent letters requesting the information. All 551 public school districts in Michigan responded to this year’s survey.

The districts provided answers to a series of questions on their service providers. If a district began contracting out or brought a service back in-house, they were asked follow-up questions, including the reasons for changing and expected savings.

These districts were asked to provide documentation on cost differences. Unfortunately, not all districts provided comprehensive documentation, nor was the method of documenting these costs uniform across districts. Where applicable, figures were annualized and estimated for the first year of service provision. The districts’ published figures may not be directly comparable to each other, but a cost accounting analysis of district savings figures is beyond the scope of this survey.

Whether the district was new to contracting or had been contracting for several years, the district was asked whether they were satisfied with the services the private company has provided.

It is common for districts to only contract out part of its services, whether through attrition as workers leave the job or whether for the management of the service. Districts contracting out with private vendors to provide normal services are included as having privatized services in this survey, even if the majority of the service is provided by in-house staff. However, districts contracting out special services support with private contractors, such as for the cleaning of administrative buildings or for special education busing, are not counted.

Our definition of privatization also includes districts that contract out with employee leasing agencies.

Many districts contract with another district, their intermediate district, municipal government or some other governmental agency. These districts are not counted in the numbers because they are not contracting to private companies.