School districts sometimes are referred to as a "local educational agency," but recently the one in Fruitport seemed more concerned with being a "local employment agency."

MLive.com reports that the school board voted against saving $240,000 by contracting out for custodial services — money that could be redirected toward educating students. The president of the janitor’s local union said board members, "felt that people shouldn't lose their jobs right now" and, according to MLive.com, specifically praised those on the board who have "ties to labor."

There are two misconceptions in this remark. First, contracting out does not automatically mean current employees will lose their jobs. In fact, districts can require the company they contract with to hire back the district's employees (or at least give them first right of refusal).

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Second, and more importantly, school districts are not a government "jobs program." They are charged with providing the best possible education to students at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers. Period. End of story.

Perhaps the Fruitport school board believes that having unionized custodians directly on its payroll helps students learn better. If so, let them make a case for it. Absent that dubious proposition, if this union boss is correct about why the school board turned down these cost savings, its members are neglecting the district's real mission.

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