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Competitive Contracting at Public Schools

MEA Committed to Defeating Privatization

MEA committed to defeating privatization

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a letter written by the executive officers of the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest public school employees union, regarding privatization of noninstructional services at public schools. It was published in the Letter to Members section of the Spring 2007 issue of MEA Voice. It may be viewed in its entirety at

"…We’ve witnessed in Michigan an unprecedented trend toward privatization in our public schools. School boards are firing dedicated school support employees and then hiring private, for-profit companies to provide essential support services, or threatening to do so.

"And though millions of public dollars are at stake in this privatization game, there’s little public scrutiny after districts decide to outsource some of their operations.

"Do promised savings materialize? Do private contractors provide the same level of service? Do students suffer when employee turnover rates double, or when workers don’t care about the tasks they’ve been assigned to do?

"And if you think that privatization threatens school support personnel only, think again. In the past few years, school boards have voted to subcontract building principals and other administrators. In some districts, substitute teachers are now leased from for-profit companies, as are school counselors and psychologists.

"And don’t forget about public charter schools, where management companies have received millions of dollars over the years to supply classroom teachers.

"MEA is committed to helping members save their jobs because it’s in the best interest of students, parents and communities. We’re putting more resources into fighting privatization than ever. We are committed to partnering with you to beat privatization. …"

Who will speak for me?

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a letter regarding privatization of noninstructional services written by a Grand Rapids member of the MEA to the MEA Voice. It was published in the VOICEmail section of the Fall 2007 issue. The entire text of the letter may be viewed at

"As a teacher in the Grand Rapids EA, I have watched privatization force its way into our schools.

"I have seen this issue spread to the county and throughout the state. Some members have sat back and done nothing because they believed that it did not affect them directly.

"Let me remind educators in these situations of the famous quote by Pastor Martin Niemoller, a victim of the Nazis. Niemoller spoke of the Nazis coming for the communists, Jews, trade unionists, and Catholics, and he said: I did not speak up because I was not in these groups. Then, when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.

"In the future, will we look back and say: ‘In my district, first they came to privatize the bus drivers, and I didn’t speak up because I was not a bus driver. Then, they came to privatize the custodians, and I didn’t speak up because I was not a custodian. Then, they came for the substitute teachers, the food service workers, the secretaries and the parapros, and I didn’t speak up because I was not one of these. Then, they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up for me.’?"

The Governor and the Private Sector

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from an MEA interview of Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The interview was published in the Fall 2006 issue of the MEA Voice, and it can be viewed at

MEA: "In many school districts, employees are losing their jobs to privatization. How do you view such decisions — and what is your understanding of the impact that privatization has on the local/state economies?"

Granholm: "In state government, we have found that privatization is much less than it’s cracked up to be. In fact, we have seen economic savings and increased efficiency by bringing work back to the state workforce after the previous administration outsourced it. I have urged other units of government to think twice before they jump on the privatization bandwagon — the public sector can outperform the private sector with the right supports and management."