Myths of Privatization
Administrators and school board officials often cite one or more of the following myths as reasons to privatize a given service. Find out why these myths don’t hold up!
Myth 1: Privatization saves money.
Fact: Privatization can be more costly than providing the service in house. Contractors often underestimate bids in order to win contracts and administrators often fail to take hidden costs into account when deciding to privatize. In addition, once a school district privatizes a given service, it loses the infrastructure necessary to provide that service itself. For instance, the school district would sell equipment and no longer stock supplies for custodial services, and thus, it would be very difficult to deprivatize in the future because the school district has made itself dependent on the private contractor.
Myth 2: Privatizing will improve the quality of service.
Fact: Privatization usually results in an inferior quality of services. In order to maximize profits, private contractors will attempt to cut corners. This may mean reducing staff to a quantity below what is necessary or hiring only part-time employees to avoid providing benefits. Furthermore, contractors will pay less, and therefore employees who may leave our district to work for the contractor would eventually leave the profession, and the private company will continue to attract less qualified employees. Addtionally, we know our current custodians often perform services beyond those specifically stated in their contracts, such as building relationships with other staff, students & families. A private contractor will provide only those services necessary to satisfy the contract.
Private contractors also often fail to perform adequate background checks on their employees, which is something we cannot afford as we imporove school safety for our children.
Myth 3: Privatizing will eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy
Fact: Privatizing a service doesn’t eliminate bureaucracy. It only adds another bureaucracy onto the existing one. Many administrators think that privatization will cut red tape, when in fact, contracting a service out only adds another middle man between the school and the people providing the service. Furthermore, while privatizing a service often means that the school district loses control over how the service is performed, the school district frequently maintains liability for problems that may occur, even after privatizing.
Myth 4: Privatizing will allow school officials to focus on “educational issues”.
Fact: As shown above, privatizing often creates more problems than it may fix. Many contractors are relatively inflexible to changes. When unforeseen problems occur, solving them may become more difficult once a service is privatized.
Myth 5: “The school district is not in the business of transportation, food service, or grounds maintenance. It is in the business of education.”
Fact: ANY School official or individual who uses this argument to defend privatization has an extremely narrow definition of “education”. Public schools teach students much more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. Public schools instill the values of citizenship and teach children the responsibilities and privileges that accompany life in a democratic nation. By privatizing public services, a school teaches that the nation’s government has failed to perform the duties it was initially intended to perform. Furthermore, education extends outside of the classroom; it continues in the cafeteria and on the school bus. The public employees who perform these services recognize this and consider themselves educators as well!