Privatization of support services has been a method that Michigan school districts have used for several years to lower costs. More than ever before, Michigan school districts are privatizing the three main support services they offer — food, custodial and transportation. Our annual survey finds that 48.8 percent of Michigan school districts are contracting out for these services. This is an 8 percent increase over 2009.

The largest impetus for contracting is cost savings. The survey found that first-year contracts alone are expected to save districts $16.7 million cumulatively.

The Mackinac Center has surveyed Michigan public school districts about their use of private contracts since 2001 and annually since 2005. More and more each year, districts contract out to save money. They also consistently report satisfaction with the contracts they have in place.

New to the 2010 survey is a question on shared services. House Bill 6488 has been introduced that would establish a shared services commission to study district consolidation and allow the state superintendent to force consolidation. But there had not been a comprehensive list of the services that districts are currently sharing and the advantages of those arrangements. The 2010 survey found that a majority of districts share at least one service, with frequent sharing among business, transportation, technology and food services.

The survey is a centralized source for data regarding the growth, cost savings and satisfaction of Michigan school districts use of private contractors. The survey has documented the steady trend towards privatization of school support services.