Students in the Detroit suburb of Southfield are learning more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic they also are learning an important lesson in privatization. Through a pilot partnership program with the office-supply firm Kinko's, Southfield High School has opened its very own student-run Kinko's store, which provides services to the school district as well as to area citizens.
The store is part of the curriculum offered by the Global Business and Information Technology Academy within Southfield High. Students in business classes are assigned to work at the store, handling all areas of operation from marketing to management. The store provides office products such as business cards and services such as copying and flier production to its clientele. The equipment to establish the store is sold by Kinko's to the school district at cost, and all profits from the store are redirected into store operations and a scholarship program for seniors in the Academy. The school saves money on equipment, receives higher quality services and products, and the profits return to the school and students rather than to a vendor.
Tina Richmond, the Kinko's liaison for Southfield High, explained that the Southfield program is a way for the company to advertise its name, while providing great service and educational opportunities to the school district and its students.
Southfield Public Schools administrators praise the program, saying it has improved education and office services within the district, and will continue to grow—taking on more of the district's office service needs and providing excellent, quality results.
"It's a win-win situation," says Margaret Holcomb, Southfield School District's business partnership director.
Southfield High is not the only school that has implemented the in-house office store idea. Mackenzie High in Detroit has teamed up with IBM to open MacTech, a full-service office-supply store. MacTech provides both services and supplies, including word processing, lamination, flyer design, resume creation, and business cards to school staff, students, businesses, community organizations, and even other schools. As with the Southfield-Kinko's partnership, the profits generated by MacTech are redirected to the school.
Although these business-school partnership programs are in their infancy stage, they nevertheless are a good example of how public schools can use the private sector to improve education for students. Schools can receive higher-quality products and services and reap profits by contracting with businesses that employ their students.
Meanwhile, students have the chance to learn valuable skills that will serve them well for years to come as well as opening doors to future internship and training possibilities with the firms. And isn't that what education is all about?
Elizabeth Moser is education research assistant at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.