The Mackinac Center contacted every public school district in Michigan between May 14 and August 6. Most responses were received via a simple phone conversation, though e-mails, faxes and letters were sent out if requested or if a district failed to return repeated phone calls. If a district failed to respond to phone and e-mail contact, the Mackinac Center contacted the relevant ISD. Most of the respondents to the survey were superintendents, assistant superintendents and business managers; a few were CFOs, administrative assistants or school principals (in the case of single-school districts).

Districts were asked if they contracted out for any portion of their food, custodial or transportation services. If they did, follow-up questions included the private vendor used, whether the district was satisfied with the service received, and the scope of the contract. For instance, some districts contract out for only the manager of a support service, while others contract out all employees.

Because some districts provide this joint provision, we include any regular service provided via a contracted company in our count of those districts that privatized that service. Special services and substitute employees, however, are not considered as privatizers of the service. For instance, contracting for special education transportation would not be considered privatization of the district’s transportation services. Likewise, contracting with another school district would not be considered privatization.

If a district had begun contracting out within the past year, or had brought a service back in-house, they were asked the reason for the change. If districts contracted out or ended a contract and brought the service back in-house to save money, districts were also asked to estimate those expected savings from new outsourcing or insourcing. These estimates were not provided by all districts. Other districts did affirm that they were saving money through new contracting, but did not estimate the savings amount.

Districts were also asked whether they had any plans of contracting out within the next year, what services they shared with neighboring districts or ISDs, and whether they had ratified a new teacher contract since August 2011.