For the fourth survey in a row, privatization of the three major noninstructional services in Michigan increased over the previous year’s total. In 2007, 40.0 percent (221 districts) of Michigan school districts reported contracting for at least one of the three major noninstructional services: food, custodial or transportation. This is up from a revised 37.4 percent (206 districts) in 2006. Since our original survey in 2001, the district contracting rate for at least one of the three major services to some degree appears to have increased by 29.1 percent.

Graphic 2 - click to enlarge

Not all of the surveys conducted by the Mackinac Center included every district. The 2001, 2003 and 2006 original survey populations fell short. Survey 2001 included 228 of the 554 districts, while Survey 2003 included 517 of the 552 districts. The 2006 survey originally reached 550 of 551 operating conventional school districts. The 2006 survey was ultimately revised to include all 551 districts because the lone district that had not responded during the survey window (Detroit) later provided the Mackinac Center with the information the Center had been seeking.

One qualification is in order: The 2005 and 2007 surveys had response rates of 100 percent, but the 2001 survey had a response rate of 41.1 percent. The incomplete response in 2001 introduces some potential sampling error and non-response error to our calculation of the percentage change from 2001 to 2007 in the number of districts that contract in Michigan. Still, even if one measures the change just since 2005, the states’ privatization rate increased by an impressive 12.8 percent in just two years. Moreover, "incomplete" is a relative term here. A survey that yields responses from 41.1 percent of the survey population is generally considered reasonably good in survey research.

There are 21 districts in the state that are new to contracting in 2007.v

Graphic 3

Conventional Michigan School Districts New to the Annual Survey's List of Districts Contracting for Food, Bus or Custodial Services

District

County

Service

Arenac Eastern School District

Arenac

Food

Big Bay de Noc Schools

Delta

Custodial

Buchanan Community Schools

Berrien

Custodial

Decatur Public Schools

Van Buren

Food

Dryden Community Schools

Lapeer

Food, Custodial, Transportation

Fitzgerald Public Schools

Macomb

Food

Forest Area Community Schools

Kalkaska

Custodial

Gwinn Area Community Schools

Marquette

Custodial

Harbor Beach Community Schools

Huron

Custodial

Homer Community Schools

Calhoun

Food

Inland Lakes Schools

Cheboygan

Food

Lakeshore Public School District

Berrien

Custodial

L’Anse Creuse Public Schools

Macomb

Food

L’Anse Area Schools

Baraga

Custodial

Lansing School District

Ingham

Food

Mancelona Public Schools

Antrim

Food

Mattawan Consolidated School

Van Buren

Food

Midland Public Schools

Midland

Food, Custodial

Oakridge Public Schools

Muskegon

Food

Saranac Community Schools

Ionia

Transportation

Whitehall District Schools

Muskegon

Custodial

In addition to finding a dramatic increase in competitive contracting, the Mackinac Center closed out this year’s survey (on June 30) with the understanding that 42 additional districts were still considering contracting for the 2007-2008 school year, and six of those districts reported being on the cusp of approving new privatization deals. Several districts requested that they not be profiled in print by the Mackinac Center for fear of stirring up greater opposition to privatization than they might otherwise face.

In addition, another 18 districts (beyond the 42 mentioned earlier) reported having already begun to explore contracting out for the 2008-2009 school year. This figure does not include a group of several districts in the Copper Country Intermediate School District which are in ongoing discussions to jointly contract for transportation services with a private firm.[7]


v This is not the net total for the increase in privatization statewide because a net six districts brought services back in-house from 2006 to 2007. A total of eight districts brought services in-house, but two of these ultimately contracted for a different function which kept them in the privatization category for the overall tally.