For Immediate Release
Thursday,
Oct. 23, 2014
Contact:
Ted O'Neil
Media Relations Manager
989-698-1914

MIDLAND —

MIDLAND — The number of Michigan’s conventional public school districts that contract out for at least one of the three main noninstructional support services — custodial, food or transportation — edged up slightly from 2013 to 2014, increasing from 66.2 percent to 66.6 percent, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s 2014 School Privatization Survey. Only 31 percent of districts privatized one or more of those services in 2001 when the Center began its annual survey.

“There are a lot of factors contributing to the slowed rate of growth,” said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy and co-author of the study. “It’s possible that school privatization is starting to plateau. There may come a time when all of the districts that will contract out for quality services while simultaneously saving money already have.”

All 545 conventional public school districts in Michigan responded to the survey, which was performed between May 13 and Sept. 15, 2014. The survey was conducted in 2001 and 2003, and has been done annually since 2005. The Center has received 100 percent compliance from all districts every year since 2005. There are now 363 districts that contract out for at least one of the three services, and 182 districts contract out for at least two, up from 160 in 2013.

“Contracting out continues to be a commonly accepted way for districts to provide services efficiently while devoting more resources to their core function — providing educational opportunities to students,” Hohman said.

Custodial services continues to be the most frequently contracted service, with 47.5 percent of districts, or 259, using private companies to clean and maintain their buildings and grounds. That is up from just 6.6 percent in 2003.

Food service contracting increased from 36 percent of districts in 2013 to nearly 39 percent in 2014.

School officials told the Center that new federal regulations on what foods they can sell to students play a part in the increase.

“Schools are prohibited from making a profit off their cafeteria operations, but any shortfalls have to be covered with general fund dollars,” Hohman said. “The new federal lunch regulations could be driving down the number of students who buy lunch at school, so districts are looking to save money by contracting out for providers.”

While transportation contracting is the least frequently used service, it is increasing rapidly, growing from 20 percent of districts in 2013 to nearly 24 percent in 2014 as 24 new districts outsourced busing.

There were 15 districts — the same number as in 2013 — that brought services back in-house. Nearly 90 percent of districts reported being satisfied with their outsourcing.

Sum totals include 211 districts that contract for food services, 259 for custodial and 131 for transportation.

The full survey, including a map showing every district that contracts out for support services, can be found at http://www.mackinac.org/archives/2014/S2014-05.pdf.

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