Seventy Percent of School Districts Contract Out for Food, Custodial or Transportation Services

Statewide survey finds continued growth in school privatization

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016

Chantal Lovell
Media Relations Manager

MIDLAND — The percentage of Michigan school districts that contract out for at least one of the three main noninstructional support services grew slightly from 69.7 percent in 2015 to 70.1 percent in 2016. This is according to the results from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s annual survey of every school district in the state and detailed in a new report “Michigan School Privatization Survey 2016.” The first year the Center surveyed school districts only 31 percent contracted out for at least one of these services.

“Using private contractors to provide noninstructional services has grown from being somewhat unique to being mainstream,” said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Center and co-author of the study. “Clearly, many school districts are finding value in turning to the private sector to meet their needs.”

Of the 541 school districts in Michigan, 379 now contract out for food, custodial or transportation services. This information is based on interviews with school officials, who were contacted between May 11 and June 30, 2016. Every year since 2005, each school district has responded to the Center’s survey, allowing for a perfect 100 percent compliance rate.

Schools are most likely to outsource custodial services, with 51.2 percent, or 277 districts, doing so. In 2003, only 6.6 percent of school districts hired private firms to maintain and clean their facilities. Outsourcing custodial services is the fastest growing privatized service: Over seven times more districts contract out today than did in 2003.

Food service is the next most popular major service to be privatized, with 231 districts, or 42.7 percent, contracting out this service. Only 141 districts did in 2003, resulting in growth of 64 percent over the period.

Although only 25.3 percent of districts outsource transportation services, this practice has experienced significant growth since the Center started conducting annual surveys in 2005. Only 21 districts contracted out then; today 137 districts do — more than six times more.

Most public school officials report being satisfied with the services being provided their districts by private contractors. Nearly 90 percent report being satisfied with these services and less than 3 percent report dissatisfaction.

The report includes a map showing every district that contracts out for support services. The full study can be found here:

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