It's a crime when you pay custodians more than professionals.

Chancellor Joseph Fernandez
New York City Public Schools

New York City public school janitors earn an average of $57,000 a year, while the average teacher in New York state earns $42,080.[49] In a school district beset by problems, every unnecessary dollar spent sweeping the halls is one less dollar that makes it into the classroom.

There are roughly 83,000 K-12 public school buildings in the United States; all of them require cleaning, maintenance, and repair. The market for such services is estimated to be $9 billion annually. It is estimated that 10 percent of this work is currently contracted."[50]

Studies on contracting for janitorial services for public buildings show significant cost savings, as competition generally fosters efficiency and often results in quality improvements.[51]

Few comprehensive studies exist on school custodial contracting, but a number of districts have enjoyed success with this approach. According to Anton Jungherr, Associate Superintendent of the Berkeley, California Unified School District, "The programs and training [the contractor] provided our employees have been most beneficial to them. As a result, positive changes can be seen throughout the schools." Berkeley Unified saved $500,000 by contracting for facilities management in the first year.[52] Table 3 shows other recent public school experiences with contracting.

Like any other contracted service, janitorial services must be carefully monitored. Carbondale (Ill.) Community District 165 has changed custodial firms three times since the district first privatized in 1984-85. According to District Financial Officer Steve Kosco:

When you think of making a change, get with an attorney to make sure all the T's are crossed and I's are dotted. It's not as easy as you may think. You really have to keep your eyes open.

Issues such as weekend and after-hours use, exceptional cleaning costs (from flooding or vandalism, for example), and equipment costs should be clearly spelled out beforehand. Formal monitoring procedures should also be in place.


Johnson Controls World Services, Inc., in partnership with Education Alternatives, Inc., provides maintenance and operations services to nine Baltimore public schools. Services include building maintenance and repair, janitorial services, food services, and energy management.

Johnson Controls made substantial repairs and renovations to the schools, Baltimore Public School Superintendent Walter Amprey indicates that "Johnson Controls is being exceptional in all areas," giving them a perfect score on a customer satisfaction report.

According to Jim Butterfield, technical services specialist at Johnson. Controls, much of the building's maintenance systems were technologically obsolete, and custodial equipment was outdated and labor intensive. Johnson Controls invested in state-of-the-art equipment and management systems – a move which will reduce maintenance and operations costs by 20 to 25 percent, estimates Butterfield. "That's more money for the bottom line; money that goes back into the classroom," he says.

For example, Johnson Controls is retrofitting the schools' outdated lighting systems at a cost of $350,000. The upgrade will pay for itself in 1.3 years through greater energy efficiency and will continue to generate additional cost savings over its lifetime.