Study: Mackinac Center Releases Comprehensive School Privatization Primer for Food, Bus and Custodial Services

107-page book discusses incidence of privatization, capacity of school service industries, contracting process and “rules of thumb”

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Contact: Michael D. LaFaive
Director of the Mackinac Center’s Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative

MIDLAND — The Mackinac Center for Public Policy today released "A School Privatization Primer for Michigan School Officials, Media and Residents," the third and final book in the Center’s Michigan School Management Series for public schools. The primer, written by Mackinac Center Director of Fiscal Policy Michael D. LaFaive, focuses on privatization of schools’ three major support services — food, transportation and custodial — and discusses how frequently these services are privatized, how the contracting process works and how school officials can optimize the cost and quality of the services they receive.

"Support service privatization is no longer an exotic concept," said LaFaive. In 2006, he noted, 28.8 percent of Michigan’s conventional public school districts contracted with a private firm for food services, roughly double the national rate. In contrast, Michigan’s privatization rate for bus services probably lagged the national rate, while the state’s 11.4 percent privatization rate for custodial services was probably around the national average. "In any event," he noted, "privatization of these three services appears to have increased in Michigan in recent years, and our surveys indicate the vast majority of districts are satisfied with the results."

The primer also discusses the "request for proposals" used to solicit bids from private vendors and "10 Rules of Thumb" to help districts contract successfully. "It is my sincere hope that school officials will use this guide to facilitate smooth privatization processes where they are warranted," said LaFaive. "We feel this primer is unique in the institutional knowledge it provides about school contracting, but the goal isn’t just saving money and improving services — it’s freeing district officials to focus on helping teachers in the classroom."

"A School Privatization Primer" is posted on the Web at The first two books in the Mackinac Center’s Michigan School Management Series are "A Collective Bargaining Primer for Michigan School Board Members," by Thomas W. Washburne and Michael D. Jahr ( and "A Michigan School Money Primer for Policymakers, School Officials, Media and Residents," by Dr. Ryan S. Olson and Michael D. LaFaive (