There is also a stored fund of anti-privatization rhetoric and tactics that will probably be brought to bear against a district that is publicly investigating competitive contracting. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest school employees union, has produced anti-privatization guides and been a vociferous opponent of school privatization. One of the association’s most recent anti-privatization publications is titled, “Beat Privatization: A Step-by-Step Crisis Action Plan.” School board members, superintendents and business officers should have a copy of this publication, since it indicates the kinds of questions and criticisms decision-makers are likely to hear in public debate.
The NEA guide contains a 10-step plan for opposing privatization and a “tool kit” for recording useful board meeting information, such as committee names, committee meeting schedules, people scheduled to make presentations to the board, and (the guide adds), any “gossip, tidbits, whatever, picked up before, during, and/or after the meeting.” The final page of this particular guide includes four pieces of artwork for buttons and stickers for “distribution to education support professionals threatened by privatization and their supporters.” One of these reads, “I work here! I live here! I vote here! I am the TAXPAYER.”
The guide also includes arguments that the NEA suggests privatization opponents use against supporters. These items are “talking points” that can be quickly deployed in public debate. For instance, in the NEA manual’s “Tool H” section, entitled “The Pro and Con Debate: Countering Arguments that Support Subcontracting,” strong rhetoric is deployed, with references to “inexperienced, transient workers with few benefits and receiving minimum wages,” “faceless, nameless employees,” and “[s]trangers in our schools [who] are hazardous to everyone’s health and well-being.”
School district officials should recognize that some of the arguments they hear may be part of a calculated campaign abetted by a highly organized labor union. Other national anti-privatization sources that officials may wish to familiarize themselves with include the following:
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations’ 1993 publication, “The Human Costs of Contracting Out: A Survival Guide for Public Employees.”[lii]
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ monograph “Schools for Sale: The Privatization of Non-Instructional School Services.”
The National Education Association Online Resources’ “Privatization Problems Make News.”
[lii] Krista Schneider, “The Human Cost of Contracting Out: A Survival Guide for Public Employees” (Public Employee Department, AFL-CIO, 1993). For a description of this product and responses to its salient features, see Michael LaFaive, “Labor Pains,” (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 1997).