At this moment a battle is raging in Newton, pitting the School Committee against the school custodians. Essentially, the committee wants to privatize custodial work, washing its hands of the current custodians and their union. In this manner, custodial work, argues the committee, will be cheaper, leaving more money for improving education. This is a devilish argument, its premise a cruel fact: privatized workers earn much lower salaries and get few if any benefits and protections. Their companies are almost always non-unionized; the employees lie at the mercy of their managers’ whims. Typically, workers in such companies have a much higher rate of turnover and a much grimmer future. … Remember the disastrous results when many states decided to privatize their prisons. The idea: private corporations, being more efficient than public institutions, would run prisons at lower cost, saving the state money. The result: prison mismanagement, including the hiring of unqualified and untrained prison personnel, and mistreatment of prisoners. After a decade, most states have returned to managing prisons themselves. A parallel process is occurring in the privatization of American schools, led by the Charter School movement. Some charters, of course, are technically “public” in that they are nominally under the supervision of local school boards. Usually, though, the teachers are non-union and the administrators armed with nearly arbitrary power to hire and fire. Due process? Grievance? They are often thrown out the window in this brave new world of education. … In the meantime, Newton ought to keep its school community intact, without creating different tiers of workers: city employees who receive ethical treatment and proper remuneration, and privatized workers on a much lower salary scale. At the same time, both government and the private sector must consider more than the bottom line: do we want a country of haves and have-nots or a nation with a strong, secure middle class? Beware of cost-cutting measures that also place the American Dream beyond the reach of millions of Americans. …
It’s bad enough the capital city school district privatized its own aides, resulting in hundreds of layoffs the past two years and disorganization within the special education department. But when the district tried to send contracted aides to another district, the state Department of Education put its foot down. According to a Sept. 20 DOE commissioner decision, Trenton lost an appeal to provide contracted aides to the Mercer County Special Services School District (MCSSSD) for special education students the capital city district places at MCSSSD. Trenton sought to implement the plan for the 2015-16 school year to reduce operating costs, but MCSSSD, which specializes in education for children with special needs, refused to allow it, leading to the state decision. … MCSSSD’s aides are district employees unlike Trenton, which outsources its aides. Whitfield has filed numerous special education complaints against Trenton within the past year. The advocate said the district cannot fill the number of paraprofessionals required for students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEP) this year and is currently out of compliance. … This year’s budget was criticized for being discriminatory toward children with special needs with many cuts targeting paraprofessionals and specialists. For the second year in a row, Trenton public schools slashed hundreds of jobs, privatized paraprofessionals and closed a school. Most recently, the Trenton chapter of the NAACP called out civil rights violations for the district’s students with special needs. …
Union fears privatization in Trenton schools unlikely to stop
Source: Matt Fair, The Times of Trenton, November 28, 2011
First they came for the district’s cafeteria workers, then for its security staff and bus drivers. Slowly, over the last three years, Trenton Public Schools has moved toward privatizing parts of its staff to cope with rising employee costs and reductions in state aid….The district came close to outsourcing its custodial staff over the summer, and a private company was brought in several months ago to assume some of the responsibilities of in-house paraprofessionals who assist teachers who work with special education students and pupils with medical conditions….Mission One Educational Staffing Services was awarded a contract in September to provide paraprofessionals….Meanwhile, Mission One’s sister company, Source 4 Teachers, last month was awarded a contract to provide substitute teachers for the district.
A Hillsboro-based contractor was ordered to pay $144,000 to 46 underpaid workers and received a lifetime ban from working on public works contracts in Oregon, state officials said. The Bureau of Labor and Industries previously collected nearly $200,000 from Cornerstone Janitorial Services and directed the money to underpaid employees who worked on a series of 16 taxpayer-funded education and health care projects in Salem, Eugene, Stayton, Keizer, Monmouth, Junction City, Corvallis, Wilsonville, Portland, Vernonia and Philomath. … A complaint in a separate civil rights investigation said a Cornerstone employee was fired for participating in BOLI’s wage investigation. The employee, according to the complaint, was offered a bribe by Cornerstone owner Nam Sang not to speak with investigators. Cornerstone underpaid employees while they worked on several projects including the Oregon State Hospital in Salem and Junction City, athletic facilities at the University of Oregon, Stayton High School and three Salem-Keizer School District elementary schools. The investigation began after the agency’s Prevailing Wage Rate Unit received a tip from an employee at Hoffman Construction. …
When Chesterfield County school officials first made the decision to outsource custodial services, there was a great amount of concern and protest that the schools wouldn’t be cleaned. Less than two years later, it’s now clear not only are the schools still getting cleaned, but in terms of money saved, Chesterfield cleaned house. At a school board meeting earlier this month, school officials said that privatizing custodial services for the majority of the county’s 62 schools has resulted in $7.1 million in savings, which will now be sent toward classroom instruction. … The choice to outsource janitorial services to contractors at what was initially just eight schools in the 2014-15 school year was made with the goal of saving $1.5 million. The move drew nearly 200 complaints from teachers and school staff who wanted to keep those jobs “in house” — most notably from the Chesterfield Education Association, which represents more than a thousand teachers throughout the county. In spite of this, the program was expanded from those eight schools to 41 schools last year, with another 21 schools added this year. SSC Service Solutions, based out of Knoxville, Tennessee, which has had an agreement with Virginia Commonwealth University since 1994, has handled custodial services for the past year. About 500 custodians employed by SSC currently work in the school system, many of them former county employees. …
Superintendent: Custodial outsourcing is here to stay
Source: Jim McConnell, Chesterfield Observer, September 21, 2016
Regardless of problems that occurred during its implementation, the county’s school system won’t abandon the outsourcing of custodial services to a private contractor. Chesterfield County Public Schools Superintendent James Lane noted during last week’s School Board meeting that the school system simply cannot afford to reverse course on outsourcing custodial work at county schools. … Chris Sorensen, assistant superintendent for finance, presented the School Board last week with a document that shows by the end of fiscal year 2017, the school system expects to save nearly $7.1 million over the first three years of custodial outsourcing. That’s $400,000 less than originally projected – a result, Sorensen said, of the board’s decision last year to retain nine custodians on the school system’s payroll who each had between 25 and 29 years of service. … More than 400 other custodians have lost their jobs over the past three years as the School Board sought to free up additional resources that could be used in the county’s classrooms. … The School Board implemented the final phase of its outsourcing program July 1, when Tennessee-based SSC Service Solutions assumed responsibility for custodial services at all 65 county schools and seven other buildings. … The School Board has come under fire both for its decision to outsource custodians, who were among its lowest-paid employees in the county school system, and for the performance of its selected contractors. Smith and Vice Chairwoman Carrie Coyner are the only current School Board members who were on the board when the school system hired GCA Services Group to manage custodial services at eight schools during the 2014-15 school year. By May 2015, the school system had logged nearly 200 complaints about the company’s performance. Most of the complaints noted a general lack of cleanliness at the outsourced schools, but there were also concerns about custodians failing to report for work on time and refusing to perform assigned duties. Several concerned citizens asked the School Board to abandon the outsourcing program and rehire custodians that had been terminated. Instead, the school system solicited a new round of proposals and chose SSC Service Solutions to take over the custodial contract. …
In Chesterfield, custodial outsourcing saved school system $7.1 million
Source: Markus Schmidt, Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 18, 2016
Chesterfield County school officials say their decision to outsource custodial services for most of the county’s 62 schools has produced $7.1 million in savings that’s being sent toward classroom instruction. The School Board’s decision to outsource the work two years ago sparked controversy over complaints of insubordination, poor management, and a general unwillingness to clean school facilities on the part of the private contractor that took over for school janitors. But because of the significant savings, reversing the decision would be impractical, Superintendent James F. Lane said after a presentation by the division’s finance department at last week’s School Board meeting. … Hoping to save $1.5 million in the 2014-15 school year by laying off school janitors and replacing them with a private contractor, the School Board hired Richmond-based GCA Service Group to begin the eight-school pilot program. But the division’s experiment generated nearly 200 complaints from teachers and principals that year alone. In one case, a woman who did not work for the company returned a full set of school keys to Lloyd C. Bird High School because she said the custodian who worked for GCA had been “thrown in jail,” according to a complaint. GCA was paid $1.64 million for the first 12 months that it handled the division’s custodial services. … For the second year, the division changed vendors and awarded the contract to Knoxville, Tenn.-based SSC Service Solutions, which has had an agreement with Virginia Commonwealth University since 1994. The new contract expanded the program from eight to 41 schools; the remaining 21 schools are included this year. The school system has not yet assessed the number of complaints about SSC to compare it with the number of complaints about GCA. … School officials initially projected that the division would save $7.5 million over three years. But keeping the nine workers employed by the school system will cost about $400,000 between now and 2021. The school system decided to account for the $400,000 cost now. …
Potentially harmful chemicals dumped outside dozens of Chesterfield County schools
Source: Mark Tenia, WRIC, September 4, 2015
Last month Chesterfield County’s environmental team let the school system know they had gotten an alert that floor cleaner had been dumped onto the ground outside of 36 schools. The county notified the state Department of Environmental Quality. … Officials say the custodians were trained on properly disposing chemicals, and have since been retrained. … Earlier this year Martin voiced concerns over outsourced custodians from GCA Services Group, responsible for eight schools in Chesterfield. There were nearly 200 complaints against the company. A few months ago the school system announced a cleaning contract with SSC at 41 Chesterfield schools, all in an effort to save more than $3 million.
Custodial outsourcing: ‘This time it’s a lot better’
Source: Michael Buettner, Chesterfield Observer, June 24, 2015
School officials have expressed confidence that thorough upfront vetting and multiple layers of accountability will ensure that an expanded program of privatized custodial services at county schools will go more smoothly than the limited program that started last year. A committee of school principals and central office administrators has been working to finalize details of a contract with Knoxville, Tennessee-based SSC Service Solutions, and committee members said they already have been impressed with the company’s professionalism and attention to details. … The school division rolled out privatized custodial services at eight of the county’s 62 schools last year, and the contractor, GCA Services Group of Cleveland, Ohio, came under fire after school officials logged nearly 200 complaints about GCA custodians. The complaints ranged from failure to clean items like athletic mats to failing to lock schools’ exterior doors at night. Temple said she was still finding doors that had been left unlocked just the week before. “I feel like security is one of the biggest things [SSC is] bringing to us,” she said. A major purpose of the privatization program is to cut the school system’s spending on custodial services by $3.6 million, with the savings to be used to fund a 2 percent increase in teacher salaries….. SSC is in the process of hiring a regional manager who will work directly with Chesterfield [county], and school officials have participated in the interviewing process for that position, Evans said. …
Waco City Council on Tuesday agreed to seek proposals to privatize the city’s janitorial services but told nervous custodians the decision to outsource has yet to be made. The council voted 5-0 to authorize City Manager Dale Fisseler to seek the proposals from companies using the “competitive sealed proposal” process, which considers qualifications and service details as well as price. The outsourcing discussion drew at least a dozen interested members of the public, including some janitors who spoke of their fears of losing jobs and benefits. … Fisseler has suggested janitorial privatization as a way to save $294,000 a year, more than 30 percent of this year’s cleaning budget. But he said he won’t make an official recommendation on outsourcing until the proposals come back. Councilman Dillon Meek said he won’t be comfortable supporting privatization until he can get some key questions answered. He wants to know more about the private companies’ benefits and their use of part-time workers, the job opportunities for existing janitors and the effects on service quality, Meek said. He also wants to discuss the possibility of phasing in the private contractor based on attrition with the existing staff. … Privatization could affect 22 full-time janitors who get vacation time, health insurance and retirement, as well as three part-timers. Charles Reed, a former mayor of Waco, implored the council to reconsider the direction of privatizing janitorial jobs. “The only way this is going to save money is by cutting the pay and benefits of people who work for the city,” Reed said. “I ask each of you to search your conscience and ask, No. 1, is this necessary? And No. 2, is this the right thing to do?” …
Waco to privatize janitorial service in upcoming budget
Source: J.B. Smith, Waco Tribune, July 12, 2016
The city of Waco is considering replacing its janitorial staff with private contractors in an effort to save $294,000 a year. City staff and three council members discussed privatizing the service at a budget and audit committee meeting Tuesday, three days before City Manager Dale Fisseler releases his preliminary budget for 2016-17. If the council agrees, the city would bid out the janitorial services now performed by 22 full-time and three part-time employees, reducing janitorial costs from $950,000 to an estimated $656,000 a year. Current employees earn between $9.94 and $14.10 per hour, plus benefits for full-time workers. …
In Kentucky’s current state of budget-strangling and uncertainty, Eastern Facilities Services in the hotseat with the possibility of outsourcing custodial and grounds maintenance staff. The news came August 29 after the office of Finance and Administration informed Facilities Services personnel that EKU would be requesting proposals from third party vendors for custodial and grounds services. The request for proposal (RFP) was sent out September 9. … According to the RFP, companies that bid on the project must include proposal for both custodial and grounds services together, as well as one for each service separately. It also stipulates that all current EKU custodial and grounds employees be offered a full 40-hour, 52-week position with the new company and no break in health insurance coverage, according to the RFP. … But workers are worried. Rumblings and rumors have circulated throughout the affected employees, and eight year custodian Carl Shanks said staff is frustrated and waiting anxiously. …
EKU will look at outsourcing custodial, grounds services
Source: Bill Robinson, Richmond Register, August 30, 2016
As Eastern Kentucky University looks for cost savings in the wake of continued state funding cuts, it has asked for proposals from vendors that could take over its custodial and grounds-keeping operations. As directed by the board of regents, facilities services personnel were told Monday that a request for proposals from potential vendors will be advertised as early as next week, according to a statement released Tuesday on behalf of Barry Poynter, EKU Vice President for Business/Finance. … If it chooses to outsource custodial and grounds keeping services, EKU’s goal will be to have current staff hired by a third-party vendor that will offer “comparable benefit packages,” the statement added. It acknowledged the RFP would likely raise “questions and concerns” among university employees, which it did. Some contacted The Register and said they feared the briefing was an early warning that custodian and grounds employees could eventually lose their jobs or find themselves working for a third-party employer that offers less desirable benefits. EKU employees receive tuition waivers as well as health insurance and retirement contributions from the university. … RFP responses are expected by Oct. 10. They will be evaluated and presented to the regents for review at their October meeting, according to the statement. …
More than 75 parents and educators crowded into the small room where the Mars Area school board meets, spilling into the vestibule, to voice their displeasure with the board’s rejection of a fact-finding report in a labor dispute with support staff. Board members voted 8-1 a second time Tuesday to reject the report. The second vote was required by law because members of the Mars Area Education Support Staff had approved the report. Board member Steve Boggs was the lone dissenting vote both times. Those who spoke were unanimous in their view that the district should offer the support staff — paraprofessionals, secretaries and custodians — a fair contract and not outsource their jobs. The district is considering outsourcing custodial services to save $1 million per year. Outsourcing paraprofessionals and secretaries would save another $800,000 a year, but the board currently is looking to outsource only custodians, solicitor Tom Breth said. … Some staff and parents talked about problems with services that were previously outsourced. Parent Lori Allison said she quit being a substitute teacher in the district because the company hired to manage substitutes kept asking her to teach classes for which she was not certified. “They only wanted a body,” she said. Mr. Breth said the main sticking point in negotiations is the district’s insistence that all employees be treated the same for health care costs. Under the current contract, which expired June 30, 2015, the district pays only for individual health coverage for new employees rather than family coverage that existing employees receive. Employees can opt to pay for family coverage themselves if they want it. …
A Harris County jury on Tuesday awarded a Houston commercial cleaning firm $5.3 million in damages, finding that a labor union’s aggressive organizing campaign went too far when it maligned the reputation of the company. It opens the door for more employers to sue unions over hardball tactics often used in membership drives and contract disputes. The jury, by a 10-2 vote, found for Professional Janitorial Service in a suit the company brought nine years ago against the Service Employees International Union, which targeted the company as part of its “Justice for Janitors” organizing campaign and wrongly claimed Professional Janitorial Service had violated wage, overtime and other labor laws. The case was the first time that a jury has found against a union in a business defamation or disparagement case, according to a search of legal records by the company’s law firm, AZA of Houston. … The union said it would appeal the verdict. In a statement, the SEIU called the outcome an assault on free speech rights and said the trial was “riddled with procedural errors and blatant appeals to the prejudices of the jury.” The union said the company failed to prove the union’s statements were “false, defamatory, malicious” or that it suffered economic damages. … The case stretches back more than a decade, when SEIU launched its “Justice for Janitors” campaign in Houston, organizing workers at the city’s five biggest commercial cleaners and negotiating contracts with them. Professional Janitorial Service, the sixth largest, refused to recognize the union without first giving workers a chance to vote in a government-supervised election. SEIU went on the attack, accusing the company of forcing employees to work off the clock and firing them for union activities and using its connections with politicians and pension funds, which invest in commercial real estate, to steer cleaning contracts away from Professional Janitorial Service, according to court documents. …
Source: Tom DeLucia, President of AFSCME Local 287, New Haven Register, September 6, 2016
I, too, am a school custodian, but my employer is the New Haven Board of Education. When I was hired, I had to go to the police station to be finger-printed. There was also a background check to make sure I did not have a criminal record. Employees of private companies do not have to go through the same process we do. That’s one of the problems with outsourcing, but it’s a problem that can be fixed by demanding greater accountability and transparency on the part of the company hired to provide a service.
Felon arrested on New Haven gun charge worked for company contracted by city schools
Source: Estaban L. Hernandez, New Haven Register, August 2, 2016
A man police identified as a convicted felon facing gun possession charges was working as a supervisor for a company contracted by the school board for facilities services at the time of his arrest last weekend. Jorge Rivera, 35, was arrested Saturday after police said he pointed a stolen gun at another man’s face during an altercation. … Clark said Rivera worked for ABM since 2014. Mitchell Burns, project manager for ABM’s New Haven offices, said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on the matter. Burns declined to confirm that Rivera worked at ABM. Clark said the district has asked ABM to remove Rivera from the staffing they provide the district. Similar to Whaley, Rivera likely had minimal contact with students, if any. The district doesn’t have a say on Rivera’s employment with the company, Clark added. … What’s also unclear is what school facilities Rivera staffed. Clark said ABM supplies the district with more than 150 part-time custodians assigned across the district. Rivera’s duties included reviewing attendance sheets, assigning work and ensuring proper cleaning. …
Pushing Working Families into Poverty: Assessing the New Haven Plan to Privatize the Public Schools’ Custodial Services
Source: Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Political Economy Research Institute University of Massachusetts, Amherst, March 2011
The City of New Haven is considering outsourcing its public school custodial services to a private firm, GCA Services Group, to reduce the City’s projected $42 million deficit for fiscal year (FY) 2011-12. Outsourcing to this firm would cut the cost of the school custodial services in half, saving the City $8.1 million, equal to 19 percent of the deficit. This report assesses the major cuts in wage and benefits that this proposal will impose on New Haven’s currently employed custodians, including their impact on the families of the custodial workers.
The main findings are:
• The GCA Services Group proposed contract to provide public school custodial services would:
○ Reduce the current average wage among the New Haven Public School (NHPS) custodians by 40%, from $20.90 to $12.50 per hour;
○ Replace 186 full-time custodial positions with a largely part-time workforce; at minimum, 2/3 of the new positions will be part-time;
○ Eliminate health insurance benefits, overtime pay and bonuses for all part-time workers; eliminate retirement benefits for all workers.
• These severe pay and benefit reductions would effectively force the 186 lower-to-middle-income NHPS custodians and their families to bear the burden for fully 19 percent ―$8.1 million ―of the city’s projected $42 million budget deficit for FY2011-12. Yet, these 186 families represent less than one-half of one-percent of the 46,000 households in New Haven.
Farmington Public Schools is expected to save $1.4 million this year after privatizing its custodial services for the first time. The district is one of several public school districts that have recently turned to privatizing noninstructional services, joining others that have used the practice for years. Farmington estimates the district will save $4.2 million over three years because of the move. The district reported its findings to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for its “Michigan School Privatization Survey 2016.” … In recent years, public school districts in Michigan have increasingly contracted out at least one of three noninstructional services covered by the report — food, custodial, or transportation. Over 70 percent of districts in the state have contracted out for at least one the three services in the last year, a slight increase from 69.7 percent in 2015. A private vendor is now used in 379 of 541 districts in the state for at least one of the three services. In 2001, the first year the survey was conducted, only 31 percent of districts used private contracts for one or more of these services. … The survey was based on telephone interviews with districts, which were conducted between May 11 and June 30, 2016. The Mackinac Center submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to districts that asked for them, the study says. The Center has had a perfect response rate on the survey since 2005. The survey also probed for districts’ satisfaction with their private contractors. Nearly all districts, or 89 percent, said they were satisfied. Less than 3 percent were unsatisfied. … The districts that privatized custodial services this year include Farmington Public Schools, Clawson Public Schools and North Huron Schools. Districts with newly privatized food services are the Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw School District, Carson City-Crystal Area Schools and Ellsworth Community Schools. Districts with newly privatized transportation services are East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Montrose Community Schools, and Mid Peninsula School District. …
Number of Michigan Schools Privatizing Services Grows to 70 Percent
Source: James M. Hohman and Jonathan Moy, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, August 17, 2015
There are more Michigan public schools contracting out food, custodial or transportation services than ever, according to the Mackinac Center’s latest survey of school districts. This year, 70.8 percent of school districts use private-sector vendors to clean buildings, get kids to school, or cook and serve school meals. This is up from 66.6 percent the previous year. … The biggest change has been in custodial services. Our 2003 survey found only 34 districts contracted out this service. In 2015, 283 of Michigan’s 542 districts contracted out these services. School food services are highly-regulated enterprises and the federal government subsidizes meals for many children. There are a few companies that have specialized in helping districts provide this service. In 2003, 27.3 percent of districts contracted out these services. This proportion increased to 42.8 percent in 2015. … There is a growing number of school districts that use private-sector contractors to bus students to and from schools. There were 18 districts that began new transportation contracts between the 2014 survey and the 2015 survey and now 144 of Michigan’s 542 districts (26.6 percent) contract out this service.
2014 Michigan School Privatization Survey
Source: James M. Hohman and Zachary Woodman, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, ISBN: 978-1-890624-37-8, 2014
From the summary:
The growth of school support service privatization has slowed. The 2014 survey shows that the percentage of school districts that contract out for food, custodial or transportation services increased just 0.4 percentage points, the smallest growth recorded since the survey began. Each service, however, increased and satisfaction with contracting remains high.
2014 Survey Results
Appendix A: Revisions to Previous Publications
Appendix B: Map of Survey Findings by School District