Privatization is a time-tested management tool used by governments around the world. It can take many forms, but competitive contracting is the most prevalent in the United States whether in municipalities or within the realm of public education. In some regards, Michigan is a national leader in competitive contracting in education; in other areas it is a laggard. Nationwide research can be highly detailed and scholarly or very generalized, depending on the privatized service and sometimes on the state in question.
At the state level, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy possesses what are likely the most thorough data on school support service privatization anywhere. In school districts across Michigan, competitive contracting for at least one of the "big three" noninstructional support services — food, busing and custodial — continues to increase: Through June 2007, 40.0 percent of Michigan’s 552 conventional public school
districts reported contracting one of these services to some degree — a 7.1 percent increase in the contracting rate since 2006, with 15 net new districts choosing to contract.i
The number of operating conventional school districts in Michigan is not always the same from year to year. In 2007, there were 552 operating districts, but in 2006, there were only 551, since White Pine Public Schools enrolled no students that year. In this study, we have used the number of operational school districts to calculate and compare school district contracting rates in different years, meaning that the contracting rate in any given year may not be based on the typical 552 school districts. As a practical matter, the number of operating districts has fluctuated very little in recent years.