News Story

‘Not effective’: 4% of school contract employees never fingerprinted, says Michigan Auditor General

The auditor general found that 91% of school districts surveyed contract for services

An estimated 4% of school contract employees are never fingerprinted, Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler said in a report released this week.

The audit found that the Michigan Department of Education lacks a protocol to verify compliance with state laws regarding people with unhireable criminal offenses. And the department does not have a protocol to ensure the necessary pprovals are granted when workers with felonies are hired, the audit found. 

“All individuals who regularly and continuously work under contract in a Michigan school district must be fingerprinted prior to employment,” the audit begins.

The Michigan Department of Education’s performance on fingerprinting was rated “not effective.” Auditing a sample of 5,010 workers, the study found that 220 of them, or 4%, were never fingerprinted prior to hire. 

That’s a problem, as the audit explains:

This deficiency is particularly concerning because the school district would have neither FBI fingerprint-based criminal history information at the time of hire, nor be notified of convictions after hire because the individuals would not be included in the Rap Back notification process.

Michigan uses a background check system called Rap Back to monitor school contract workers for convictions during their employment.

The audit found a weakness in the Rap Back system, too. Rap Back only monitors “state-held” criminal cases, the audit explains. That means “federal, out-of-state and tribal” convictions are excluded.

That’s a structural issue. Then there is human error. 

The department agreed that in 13% of cases, it failed to send Rap Back notifications to schools whose workers committed offenses while employed, and to their school boards “as required by state law.”

The Michigan Department of Education disagrees on the fingerprinting point, arguing that’s a matter for the school district, not the central office.

“The fingerprinting process requires coordination among the applicant, the district’s school board, and the department of state police, without any involvement from MDE (Michigan Department of Education),” the department said. 

“Furthermore, the (department) does not have the authority to view fingerprint records for all fingerprinted employees and would not be able to implement (the auditor’s) recommendation,” the education department added. 

The audit notes that while its scope is limited to contract workers, the same issues would exist with school district employees.

The Michigan Department of Education will need to develop a compliance plan and report it to the State Budget Office.

The audit found that school districts contracting privately for non-instructional services, and even for substitute teachers, is widespread in Michigan.

The auditor general found that an estimated 91% of school districts in Michigan hire contract workers as substitute teachers, custodians, and food service. That number could be an undercount, as the auditor general cites a “lack of available statewide data.”

Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center, testified to the Senate Labor Committee that 86% of Michigan school districts are “satisfied with the services they have contracted out for.”










Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.