Similar surveys were performed in 2001 and 2003, and have been done annually since 2005.

The Mackinac Center calls every public school district to find out whether it contract out for food, custodial or transportation services. If requested, the survey can be completed via email, fax or through a Freedom of Information Act request.

This survey was conducted between May 28 and Nov. 12, 2013.

Districts are considered as having contracted out services if they use a private vendor for any part of their regular and routine food, custodial or transportation services. Thus, for instance, hiring a contractor to refinish school gymnasium floors would not be considered contracting out for custodial services as this is for a specialized service provided to the district. Likewise, some schools use contractors to provide substitute employees for certain services — this also is not consider contracting out a service per this survey.

Using an employee-leasing service, where districts hire private companies that provide the district with employees, is considered contracting, since a private sector employer provides employees performing regular and routine services. Districts that use a private food service manager are considered to contract out food services even when the district still employs some of its own food service workers.

There have been some changes to the composition of Michigan school districts since we conducted our 2012 survey. Inkster Public Schools and the Buena Vista School District have been dissolved, and students living in those former districts have been assigned to attend neighboring districts. Ypsilanti Public Schools and Willow Run Public Schools also merged into a single district.