Less than 10 years after the Mackinac Center’s first school privatization
survey, almost half of Michigan school districts contract out for at least one
of the three main support services. The survey reports have helped inform
school district administrators of the growing trend toward privatization.
The latest report,
authored by Fiscal Policy Analyst James Hohman and intern Dustin Anderson,
showed that 48.8 percent of school districts contract out for food, custodial
or transportation services. The 57 newly contracted services are expected to
save $16.7 million in the first year alone.
The Center has published
eight privatization surveys since 2001, when only 31 percent of districts
contracted out services. The report is the only list of which Michigan districts
are contracting out, and it has been replicated in Arizona, Florida and
While its primary goal
is to inform administrators and school boards of the benefits of privatization,
the survey helps others as well. Contractors check on the growth in the market,
school district consultants consider it in cost-saving plans and Michigan media
turn to the Center for detailed survey data.
“The Mackinac Center’s
privatization survey has helped public school officials make data-driven
decisions that have saved districts — and taxpayers — millions of
dollars," said former state Superindendent Tom Watkins. "The Center
and its research have helped advance privatization from a seldom used practice
to an effective tool that has now been accepted by nearly half of Michigan’s
In 2006, Center analysts recommended that the city of
Pontiac outsource police services to Oakland County. The city’s finances were
deteriorating and officials were looking for savings ideas. Pontiac didn’t
implement the recommendation at that point, and the state had to appoint an
emergency financial manager to get the city’s books back in order. The manager
decided in October to contract with the county sheriff, saving $2 million.