We contacted all 541 districts by phone from May 11 to June 30. We submitted Freedom of Information Act requests if districts asked for one.

We questioned districts about whether they contracted out for food, custodial or transportation services. If districts contracted out, we asked about their satisfaction with these services. We compared the responses to surveys done in previous years to help ensure consistency.

Districts are counted as contracting out for a support service if any part of the typical function of the service is provided by a private sector employee. A district using an employee leasing agency to fill positions in a nightly cleaning crew would be considered contracting out. We did not count contracting out for special education transportation, but a number of districts — and intermediate school districts — do contract out for this service as well.