OP-ED: PRIVATIZING PUBLIC SCHOOL CUSTODIANS AND FACILITY MANAGEMENT

Source: Jerell Blakeley, NJ Spotlight, August 15, 2016

Unfortunately, Bush is not alone. He and his hardworking colleagues in Camden and other cities are losing their jobs as more and more districts choose to privatize school custodial staff. School districts in New Jersey as diverse as Clifton, Woodstown, Lacey, and Paterson are privatizing school custodial-staff members at alarming rates. As members of the Healthy Schools Now coalition, we are concerned about the impact of school privatization on school facility quality, as well as the social costs of this troubling trend. … According to noted education scholar Walter Farrell, privatization leads to lower quality services, accountability problems, and hidden costs; most importantly, the financial benefits remain unproven. According to the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, custodial privatization processes suffer from loopholes in contracts, misleading cost-benefit analyses, indirect costs, and unrealistic introductory rates. Due to the inexperience of the privatized school custodial staff and its lack of appropriate staffing, President Clarice Berry of the Chicago Principals Association, testified before a Chicago City Council committee that she was “terrified” of what would happen when the snow began. According to the Chicago Tribune, parents claim that the unsanitary bathroom conditions, overflowing garbage cans and soiled napping cots are the result of inadequate custodial care following the Chicago Board of Education’s decision to award multimillion-dollar custodial management contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC. … Healthy Schools Now is also concerned with the disproportionate impact of cuts on custodians of color. As noted in a recent article in The New York Times, roughly one in five black adults are employed in the public sector and are about 30 percent more likely to have a public-sector job than non-Hispanic whites, and twice as likely as Hispanics. …