A striking 77.8 percent of respondents (172 of the 221 districts that contract) reported savings from privatization.
A total of 40 districts (18.1 percent) reported being unsure as to whether or not any savings resulted from their contracts.
Only nine districts (4.1 percent), reported that they derived “no savings” as a result of contracting for services. Of these nine districts, only two of them reported that their primary purpose for privatizing was to achieve “financial savings.” These districts were Fennville Public Schools and Summerfield Schools. Despite the lack of savings, both districts reported being satisfied with their overall contracting experience. While this survey did not probe for more detailed explanations, it does not strain the bounds of credulity to speculate that the newly hired private vendors may have reduced district management headaches, improved quality or both.
Examining the percentage of districts reporting savings by the number of pupils in each district shows that savings can be found regardless of district size. Indeed, the smallest sized group generated savings from privatization at a higher rate than any other size category.
Only two of the seven districts that reported having “no savings” in our 2006 survey had the same response in 2007. Of the 42 districts that were “unsure” of savings in 2006, 28, or 66.7 percent, said that they achieved savings in 2007. A total of seven, or 16.7 percent, of the districts unsure of savings in 2006 remained unsure of savings in 2007. Only four districts unsure of savings in 2006 reported no savings in 2007.viii
Looking at the number of districts reporting savings by the type of function contracted reveals that all but one of the nine districts that reported no savings in 2007 were contracting for food service. Among districts contracting for bus services, all reported having achieved savings to some degree. Only one district contracting custodial services, Fennville Public Schools in Allegan County, reported no savings.
viii Four of the 42 districts that were unsure of savings in 2006 were among the eight districts bringing services back in-house in 2007.