Beginning in 2001 the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has conducted a survey of Michigan's public schools to decipher the trends in the privatization of public school services. The survey, called the Michigan School Privatization Survey, became annualized in 2005. For the 2010 survey, all of Michigan's 551 public school districts responded. The survey was conducted between May and September; most surveys were conducted by telephone. According to the survey, the respondents were "superintendents, business managers, assistant superintendents, administrative directors and administrative assistants." The survey inquired if districts had or planned on outsourcing services. They were also asked if they had previously contracted services but subsequently returned to public, in-house services and if they were satisfied with the performance of private contractors. They were also requested to provide documentation of cost-benefit analysis. The survey qualified services as either custodial, food, or transportation services.
The results of the survey indicate that Michigan public schools are increasingly outsourcing services to private contractors. The 2010 survey discovered that 269 Michigan school districts outsource services; that is, 48.8% of Michigan school districts currently outsource. That is an 8% increase over 2009. Since the survey began in 2001, outsourcing has increased by 57.5%.
While the increases appear staggering, they are slightly deceiving. Utilizing private contractors does not denote that the entirety of that service is privatized. For example, although Bentley Community Schools utilizes an employee leasing firm to employ substitute bus drivers and replace current drivers, it still retains current public bus drivers. So rather than wholly replacing public services, school districts are conjoining private and public services to achieve optimum cost efficiency. The survey also discovered that school districts cumulatively estimate to save $16.7 million. The survey also provides a breakdown of what services are being outsourced and what each school district expects to save from that. A link to the report will be provided at the end for convenience.
Conversely, the survey discovered that eight school districts had returned to public services. The reason for the reversal was estimated cost savings. The eight school districts cumulatively estimate to save $473,872 by returning to public services.
The trend is evident. Michigan school districts are increasingly outsourcing services to reduce costs. And many appear satisfied with the results. Therefore, the trend will likely sustain, and Michigan school districts will continue to increase the outsourcing of school services.