GRAND RAPIDS — The Kent County Intermediate School District has approved a deal with a Caledonia-based firm, Professional Education Service Group, to handle substitute teacher recruitment, training and placement.

Three other West Michigan counties may join forces and contract with a single provider of such services. Districts within the three counties could opt in if they so choose. Savings resulting from this approach could range from $100,000 to $235,000 annually, depending on the size of the district.

The Grand Rapids Press reported that unions are nervous that the outsourcing of substitute teachers could lead to privatization in other areas of school support services, such as secretaries.

Secretarial and other administrative work have long been untapped areas of school privatization, but as budgets continue to tighten, districts find themselves more willing to try new management practices.