The Mackinac Center for Public Policy released a survey on Jan. 21 that eval­uated the growth in con­tracting support ser­vices in Michigan public schools. The survey indi­cated that the amount of private con­tracts in Michigan public schools has increased since 2001.

Author and policy analyst James Hohman broke the survey down into three cat­e­gories of support ser­vices: trans­portation, cus­todial, and food. Out of the three, food pri­va­ti­zation is the slowest growing private con­tractor.

Hohman’s survey reflected that more than 30 percent of Michigan’s town and rural school dis­tricts have signed private food con­tractors in the past 10 years.

“We noticed some dif­ference, there are smaller and rural schools that don’t con­tract out as much,” Hohman said. “Con­tracting is rarer in Hillsdale county.”

Hillsdale Com­munity Schools shows little growth toward this trend. For the past 15 years, HCS has employed Chartwells Ser­vices as its food man­agement con­tractor. Chartwells Ser­vices is a branch off of Michigan’s largest company in food ser­vices, The Compass Group, which is based in the United Kingdom. Most of the employees under food ser­vices are paid by the school dis­trict, but the service runs under Food Director Laura Call, a Chartwells Ser­vices employee.

Although HCS involvement in private con­tracting is not reflected in the survey cat­e­gories, the dis­trict does con­tract out in other small areas such as lawn main­te­nance.

“We do have certain oblig­a­tions that require us to bid projects out,” said HCS Business Manager Patty Knapp . “But that decision isn’t made by one person. It first comes from the finance com­mittee and then the board.”

The largest trend dif­ference between rural dis­tricts and statewide sta­tistics is in trans­portation con­tracts. In rural dis­tricts, 16 percent of schools con­tract out trans­portation service while

statewide more than 20 percent use private trans­portation ser­vices.
Last year, almost two­thirds of Michigan school dis­tricts con­tracted private food, cus­todial, or

trans­portation ser­vices. Hohman’s survey shows that out of the three ser­vices, private trans­portation con­tracts have been growing the most, despite its initial dwin­dling private con­tracting.

The survey states that from 2012­ 2013 the “pro­portion of dis­tricts using private com­panies to provide trans­portation ser­vices increased from 16.4 percent to 20.9 percent.” Five years ago, only 6 percent of school dis­tricts in Michigan con­tracted out trans­portation ser­vices.

Cus­todial service con­tracts in Michigan schools increased from 39 percent to 45 percent between 2012 and 2013. Only 6 percent of schools pri­va­tized cus­todial ser­vices 10 years ago.

“Pri­va­ti­zation has shown to save money for smaller school dis­tricts,” Hohman said. “We’re looking at our gov­ernment ser­vices, and how we can better provide these things. The answer is you need to con­tract out.”