Salem-Keizer School District board members just learned that they could have reduced expenses $2 million a year by contracting out bus services to a private company. That’s the good news.
Unfortunately, the district committee that studied the private bids did not notify the school board about the potential savings; rather, it recommended staying with the more expensive status quo. Unknowingly, the school board passed a budget that will spend more than necessary on out-of-classroom expenses.
Fortunately, other school districts across the state are trimming non-core expenditures through outsourcing. The Lincoln County School District recently finalized contracts for private companies to manage its food, transportation, and custodial services. Last year the Portland School District contracted out janitorial duties, saving millions. A 2001 Mackinac Center for Public Policy survey found that over 80 percent of schools that privatize such services were able to reduce their costs.
School districts across the country have employed private-practice teachers to provide specialized academic services. For example, if a language teacher is needed only four hours a week, an instructor is hired for just that period. Cascade Policy Institute’s Teacher’s Inc. report demonstrates how such contracts foster accountability, help control costs, and allow for program enrichment.
Instead of demanding higher taxes, Oregonians concerned about education should consider the benefits of private contracting as a way to streamline school budgets. Privatization offers a unique opportunity to produce more funds for in-classroom spending without foisting a heavier burden on taxpayers.
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