AFSCME and its members who work in our public schools fully embrace the goal of providing cost-effective, high-quality services. This objective is best met through labor/management partnerships, not through contracting out, which leaves school districts vulnerable to a variety of problems including higher costs, lower quality of services, and the loss of control and flexibility. School districts across the country cannot afford these risks as they confront the challenge of increasing student achievement with limited resources.
Non-instructional school services, from pupil transportation and custodial services to food preparation and service, provide the environment critical to effective learning. In addition, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers and others have special relationships with students and their parents. Many of these school employees are neighbors of the children they serve. When school districts contract out these jobs, they also sever such relationships.
Who are the companies seeking contracts to provide non-instructional school services? Not long ago we saw small local or regional companies responding to requests for proposals issued by school districts. Now, the companies in the food, student transportation, and custodial industries are large, multinational corporations with annual revenue in the billions. These firms have come to dominate their respective industries by buying smaller companies and driving others out of business. Companies such as Aramark, Laidlaw, First Student, and Sodexho make no secret of their plans to further penetrate the public school “market,” so corporate executives are knocking on the doors of school district officials.
Enlightened and innovative school officials and administrators know that fostering joint labor/ management initiatives to improve service delivery is more effective than contracting out. Such an approach ensures positive results without subjecting students, parents and the community to the shortcomings associated with contracting out.