Home > Uncategorized > Outsourcing at Texas A&M… and my personal experiences in public schools

Outsourcing at Texas A&M… and my personal experiences in public schools

July 30, 2012

Today’s NYTimes features an article on how Texas A&M plans to save mega-bucks by outsourcing food service and janitorial services. As a public school administrator I can identify with the the quandary the administrators face: they are not in the business of managing a large restaurant enterprise or in the business of maintaining acres of land and facilities (though arguably if they offer programs in hotel management and agriculture they could develop learning experiences that might help offset some of the high costs).

My personal experience is that outsourcing food services has been almost always a “win”. In the districts I led where we outsourced we were able to expand choices— including healthy choices— for students while lowering our operating costs by virtue of the bulk purchasing that was available to food service groups. Like Texas A&M, we were able to retain the existing work force at their current wage levels for a pre-determined time level. The only aspect that gave me some level of concern was that the new hires were often paid less and the “frozen wages” often diminished if the veteran staff stayed on. On a mega-scale, then, I was contributing to the wage suppression that I’ve written about as a negative elsewhere.

My personal experience in outsourcing custodial services has universally been poor. When the services were outsourced, the for-profit organizations cut corners in cleaning, hired staff members who lacked the pride in the facilities that the “old guard” had, and required us to institute inflexible guidelines for building use that resulted in complications with PTAs, community groups, and school organizations. This was despite the initial support or indifference to the “new” program that was going to save lots of money.

Finally, unlike the Texas A&M plan, our savings did not get redirected to new programs or expansion of existing programs: they were inevitably used to “save the taxpayers” money. The result, in the case of the facilities management, was ultimately NO savings and new headaches… and in the case of Food Services marginal savings and no change whatsoever to our efforts to improve our major mission of providing a quality education to students.


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