A New Attitude at Detroit Schools

DETROIT-The office of Detroit Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Burnley is taking a hard look at plans to outsource 3,000 school jobs. According to an April 22 Detroit News editorial, the new plan, plus recent outsourcing to UPS for delivery of tests and to private companies for mowing lawns and cleaning up debris around schools "reflect important philosophical shifts that will resonate in other troubled districts."

The privatization plans include janitorial jobs, including housekeeping, grounds and building repairs, food service management, and managing the expansion of five new alternative schools opening for students this fall. Even state and federal lobbying jobs-the people who seek favor from lawmakers on behalf of the district-are being considered for private outsourcing.

The school employee unions claim they can do these jobs as well and as efficiently as private companies. But "rundown, debris-ridden schools are obvious problems in Detroit," the Detroit News opined. "And if district maintenance workers and managers cannot get the work done, looking elsewhere for solutions is prudent."

In cases such as grounds maintenance, district officials can choose between paying private companies who then must fulfill the terms of a legal contract or be fired-and paying public employees, who don't face the same consequences if they fail to do their work in a timely manner.