Sending children to school can be an expensive undertaking for parents. But in the Pinckney Community Schools school district, transporting children to school will continue to cost taxpayers less than it might otherwise.

In February, the Pinckney school board voted to renegotiate and extend their contract with Laidlaw Transit, Inc., a private school bus firm, through June 30, 2001. The new $1.14 million contract, which includes provisions on safety training for drivers and reserves the right of the school board to suspend operations at any time, continues a relationship between Pinckney Schools and Laidlaw Transit that began in October 1994.

Pinckney Community Schools is not the only district relying on the private sector to provide school services at a lower cost. More and more districts are investigating the option of outsourcing, or hiring outside contractors to provide nonteaching services—such as student transportation.


More and more districts are investigating the option of outsourcing, or hiring outside contractors to provide nonteaching services—such as student transportation.


According to a survey conducted by American School & University magazine, over 42% of school districts and 53% of colleges expect to increase their use of contract services and outsourcing in the next few years. K-12 schools are most likely to outsource the following services: transportation (40.4%), food service (21.1%), HVAC maintenance (19.3%), computer servicing (19.3%), and printing (15.8%). Universities and colleges most commonly outsource food service (66.0%), vending (57.7%), bookstore operations (39.2%), custodial work in academic buildings (22.7%), and laundry (22.7%).

There are many good reasons for schools to outsource these nonteaching services. Survey respondents listed five top reasons why they used outsourcing: to save money (90.1%), improve operations (89.0%), improve quality (70.3%), save management time (67.3%), and to provide greater accountability (59.3%).

Some school districts and colleges reject contract services. According to the survey, the reason most commonly given is that outsourcing would threaten the jobs of loyal employees. The painful reality, however, is that schools exist for the sake of students and tax- and tuition-payers, not for employees. Outsourcing serves their needs by doing the same work better with fewer people, promoting efficiency and producing cost savings.

In the state of Michigan, a number of large collective bargaining agreements for school support staff have expired or will be expiring shortly. To the left is a sampling of school districts that could realize significant cost savings by exploring partnerships with private vendors.

Editor’s Note: A list of teacher-specific collective bargaining agreement expiration dates by district is available from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, $10.00 postpaid. The list covers all of Michigan’s 585 school districts. Vendors may find the information useful for negotiating purposes.