Commentary

School District Calls Out MEA on Bogus Privatization Claims

One school district in Michigan is setting the record straight on privatization after the Michigan Education Association claimed that the district’s outsourcing of janitorial services didn’t save money and actually cost more. Not so says the Howell School District, per WHMI:

In their August newsletter, the MEA said that the district�s total operations and maintenance budget had actually decreased almost $25,000 in the 2006-2007 school year, which was the last year before it privatized its custodians. The following year, it showed a nearly $360,000 increase and insinuated that privatization had failed to produce the savings that had been promised.

Interim [Howell Public School district] Superintendent Lynn Parrish blasted the MEA�s assertions, which she says have been very misleading as they reflect the entire maintenance budget of the district instead of just the janitorial budget. Associate Superintendent for Finance, Rick Terres, said the MEA article was misleading as it totally avoided mentioning the fact that the 07-08 year was the first year the district had to pay for operation and maintenance costs on Parker High School.

Parrish added that the teachers themselves benefited from the privatization, as the money saved on janitorial services was used to give the teachers a 1% raise in the past school year. A public relations spokeswoman for the MEA tells WHMI that the figures are self-reported by the district and you have to look at the entire operations and maintenance comparison. She says the bottom line is that the district is still spending more than it did before privatizing.

What a dumb assertionââ?¬â?evaluating an aggregated budget as a proxy for a narrow spending subset within. I have to assume that education professionals are smarter than that, making it then blatantly obvious that MEA is just trying to move the goal posts to an absurd spot to try and “prove” a point they otherwise couldn’t if they were concerned with intellectual honesty.

If the public sector’s doing such a good job, then why are they always so hesitant to let themselves be compared with the private sector on an apples-to-apples basis?

The district’s full rebuttal is here. And for the latest snapshot of the world of non-instructional school services outsourcing, see the discussion in the Education & Child Welfare section of Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2009.

Leonard Gilroy is Senior Managing Director of the Pension Integrity Project at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. The Pension Integrity Project assists policymakers and other stakeholders in designing, analyzing and implementing public sector pension reforms.

The project aims to promote solvent, sustainable retirement systems that provide retirement security for government workers while reducing taxpayer and pension system exposure to financial risk and reducing long-term costs for employers/taxpayers and employees. The project team provides education, reform policy options, and actuarial analysis for policymakers and stakeholders to help them design reform proposals that are practical and viable.

In 2016 and 2017, Reason's Pension Integrity Project helped design, negotiate and draft pension reforms for the state of Arizona's Public Safety Personnel Retirement System and Corrections Officer Retirement Plan, which both passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the state legislature and were signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Gilroy is also the Director of Government Reform at Reason Foundation, researching privatization, public-private partnerships, infrastructure and urban policy issues.

Gilroy has a diversified background in policy research and implementation, with particular emphases on competition, government efficiency, transparency, accountability, and government performance. Gilroy has worked closely with legislators and elected officials in Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, California and several other states and local governments in efforts to design and implement market-based policy approaches, improve government performance, enhance accountability in government programs, and reduce government spending.

In 2010 and 2011, Gilroy served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Arizona Commission on Privatization and Efficiency, and in 2010 he served as an advisor to the New Jersey Privatization Task Force, created by Gov. Chris Christie.

Gilroy is the editor of the widely-read Annual Privatization Report, which examines trends and chronicles the experiences of local, state, and federal governments in bringing competition to public services. Gilroy also edits Reason's Innovators in Action interview series, which profiles public sector innovators in their own words, including former U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and more.

Gilroy's articles have been featured in such leading publications as The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Weekly Standard, Washington Times, Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arizona Republic, San Francisco Examiner, San Diego Union-Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sacramento Bee and The Salt Lake Tribune. He has also appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business, CNBC, National Public Radio and other media outlets.

Prior to joining Reason, Gilroy was a senior planner at a Louisiana-based urban planning consulting firm. He also worked as a research assistant at the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech. Gilroy earned a B.A. and M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech.