Making the Most of Available Resources
There are a variety of management techniques available to public officials striving to provide students with a quality education in a cost-effective manner. Many of the approaches described will be familiar to public school administrators; others may be new. These management strategies may not be suitable in all cases, but should be evaluated by administrators.
Many of the techniques described fall under the general category of privatization – forms of alternative service provision that utilize competitive efficiencies. Privatization increases private sector involvement but does not equate to an abandonment of public responsibility or a loss of public control.
These techniques include:
Vouchers. There are two main categories of vouchers. In a limited program, vouchers can be provided to special needs or at-risk children, allowing them to attend a private school with public funds. Vouchers can also be used to assist students in pursuing vocational or pre-professional instruction generally unavailable in the public schools. Under a comprehensive voucher program, all students are provided with a voucher redeemable at any school, public or private.
Contracting for Support Services. A public entity enters a contract with a private firm to perform a specific function. Contracts are commonly used in public schools for support services such as food services, pupil transportation, building maintenance, and data processing.
Contracting for Management/Curriculum Services. Contracting for management and curriculum services enables public school districts to engage private operators to manage educational programs – for a course of study, a school, or a number of schools within a district.
Contracting with Private Schools and Universities. Some public school students have special needs (or abilities) that require special attention. In these cases, public schools allocate public funds to pay for that student's tuition in a private school better equipped to serve that student.
Interdistrict Arrangements. In some cases it makes sense for districts to coordinate services. For example, two small districts may choose to stagger their hours of operation and contract with the same bus company, thereby reducing transportation costs.
Public-Private Partnerships. This term covers a wide array of arrangements, including satellite schools, concession agreements for instructional services (as with Channel One), and local business-education partnerships, for example, in the area of vocational-intern training programs.
Philanthropy. This refers to charitable contributions of funds, equipment, and in-kind assistance provided to schools.
Asset Management. This entails making greater use of existing assets, such as through the sale or lease of unused facilities, or the renting out of facilities for use during non-school hours.
Satellite Schools: The Private Provision of School Infrastructure, by Janet R. Beales, Reason Foundation Policy Study No. 153, January 1993.
Designing an Effective Bidding and Monitoring System to Minimize Problems in Competitive Contracting, by John Rehfuss, Reason Foundation/Mackinac Center How-To Guide No. 3, 1993.
How to Compare the Costs Between In-House and Contracted Services, by Lawrence Martin, Reason Foundation/Mackinac Center How-To Guide No. 4, 1993.
Privatization and Public Employees: Guidelines for Fair Treatment, by John O'Leary and William D. Eggers, Reason Foundation How-To Guide No. 9, September 1993.