In addition to privatization, many school districts use service sharing in order to provide support services. This essentially means contracting out a service to another school district or ISD rather than a private company. The vast majority of districts share at least part of one support service, even if the sharing amounts to just a single employee dividing their time between two districts. 497 districts are now sharing at least some portion of their food, custodial or transportation services specifically. In many of these cases, the supervisor or manager of a department is shared; completely outsourcing a major service to another school district is rare. Support services which affect only a fraction of students, such as special and vocational education and associated transportation, are often shared via ISDs to eliminate duplication of specialized equipment or to get a larger base of students for limited programs.
Of the three major support services, transportation service is the most commonly shared, with 194 districts participating in an agreement at some level, most frequently for special education transportation. 104 districts share food services at some level, often management only.
One example of large-scale service sharing comes from the northern Lower Peninsula, where Alcona Public Schools contracted out its food service to Alpena Public Schools this past year. The two districts also share information systems and participate in ISD agreements for other shared services.
Hudsonville Public Schools and Jenison Public Schools, in Ottawa County, have been sharing food services for over 25 years.
Examples of food management sharing between districts include Addison Community Schools with Hudson Area Schools, Allegan Public Schools with Martin Public Schools, and Allendale Public Schools with Spring Lake Public Schools. Allendale and Spring Lake also share a business manager.
Albion Public Schools and Homer Community Schools share a privatized food manager through a contract with Chartwells. Both districts also participate in ISD consortiums for technology and other support services.
Manchester Community Schools and the Chelsea School District share a transportation director, and participate in Washtenaw ISD agreements for other shared services.