The percentage of school districts in Michigan that contract out for transportation services is now about six times larger than it was 10 years ago, a recent report found.

The 2014 Michigan School Privatization Survey, conducted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, shows that 24% (131) of districts in the state outsource with school bus contractors.

That finding was up from 20.4% in the Mackinac Center’s 2013 survey on the topic. From 2013 to 2014, 24 Michigan districts began new transportation service contracts.

However, there was some movement in the opposite direction. Four districts in the state brought their transportation back in-house between 2013 and 2014.

In 2005, just 3.8% (21) of Michigan districts outsourced school bus service.

In addition to transportation, the Mackinac Center study tracks the contracting of custodial and food services. The report's authors wrote that “there has been an explosion of privatization in these areas” since 2003.

Economic conditions have been a key reason for outsourcing, according to the study.

“Districts have largely been propelled to contract out for these services based on a desire to save money,” the researchers wrote. “In addition to this rationale, spending pressures, created in large part by rising employee health insurance and retirement costs, compelled districts to find ways to stretch dollars further.”

Read the Mackinac Center’s 2014 Michigan School Privatization Survey here.

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