Addressing health care costs and privatizing noninstructional services could help public school districts more than make up for minor per-pupil funding cuts, Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek told the Detroit Free Press.

“The fiscal reality for school districts is that the majority of their budgets are tied up in labor costs,” Van Beek said. “They need to get into those contracts and address rising costs.”

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Van Beek’s research shows that teachers in many districts contribute nothing to the cost of their own health insurance. The average teacher in Michigan pays about 4 percent of the cost of their health care premiums, while the average Michigan employee pays about 22 percent.

Privatization, meanwhile, can save districts “a substantial amount of money,” Van Beek noted.

Almost half of the state’s 551 school districts contracted out for food, transportation or custodial services in 2010. First-year contracts were expected to save districts almost $17 million cumulatively.

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