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Survey Gauges School Bus Contracting Climate

A survey of five states by the nonprofit Mackinac Center for Public Policy indicates that school districts could be leaving millions of dollars on the table by not pursuing privatization of transportation, custodial and food services.

michael lafaiveMichael Lafaive is co-author of the Mackinac Center study and provided an overview of findings at the NSTA MidWinter meeting.All but one of the 2,861 districts surveyed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and Texas responded. The report “School Support Services Privatization” was published last month by the conservative-leaning, free-market think tank. It showed that Pennsylvania led the way last year in contracting transportation services, with 66.4 percent of the districts there answering that they use a third-party provider. Meanwhile, the overall rate of contracting out at least one of the three services was the highest of the states surveyed at 75 percent.

Michigan, Mackinac Center’s home state, came in second at privatizing transportation services at 26.6 percent of school districts. Transportation remains the least privatized major non-instructional service, the study found, but contracted school bus service grew by 12 percent from 2014, and from only 3.8 percent or 21 districts in 2005.

Ohio, Georgia and Texas contract transportation the least. Only 6.5 percent of Ohio school districts reported that they use private bus companies, but that percentage was still nearly double that of Texas (3.7 percent) and six times that of Georgia (1.7 percent).

Michael LaFaive, co-author of the study and director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at Mackinac Center, told STN that the survey may expand this year to include additional states in the Midwest and Southeast, depending upon Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case on school unions currently being argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision is expected in June.

LaFaive also provided a study overview to school bus contractors during the recent National School Transportation Association MidWinter Meeting in Bonita Springs, Florida.

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