Saturday, March 26, 2016

Support Public School Custodians

The Wichita Kansas public schools, USD 259, like public schools across the state, are under great pressure from the state legislature and lobbyists who favor privatization. The USD 259 Board of Education (BOE) is to be congratulated for their outstanding effort to preserve the quality and to protect the integrity of our public schools in these difficult times. In response to actions taken by the state legislature and the governor, the BOE has reduced programs and staff and enacted efficiencies in a broad range of areas in the last few fiscal years--to the tune of about $30 million. Still more is being demanded. School Superintendent John Allison recently acknowledged that the BOE is in "a terrible position." Every member of the BOE is carefully assessing future reductions in services and programs.

Some lobbyists and legislators are demanding that custodial services be privatized. They argue that this will save money and improve efficiencies. Both claims are questionable. There is no assurance that privatization will actually reduce costs or generate savings. It really depends on who is doing the math and how costs and benefits are calculated. Privatization may actually increase costs and reduce efficiencies.

The following are solid reasons NOT to privatize custodial services:

Privatization undermines the authority of the principal, and reduces the ability of the principal to efficiently and effectively manage the school.

Privatization creates an implicit conflict between the need of the private company to generate a profit, which is the purpose of a private company, and the needs of the school. When conflicts arise the interests of the school will be in second place.

Custodians are members of the staff and part of the social culture of the school. Many custodians have direct and significant relationships with students and staff. Administrators, staff and students rely on custodians for more than minimal services specified in a contractual agreement. These tangible benefits would be lost if custodial services are privatized.

Privatization will most likely result in the loss of good jobs in our community. Custodians earn $12.45 an hour, plus health insurance, and they participate in a retirement plan. Since wages would likely be reduced and benefits pared in order to maximize profits, privatization is a direct threat to the future well-being of custodial workers, their families, and the health of our community,

Therefore, I urge us to support the BOE in their stand against pressure to privatize custodial services. Let us support their efforts to preserve the quality and to protect the integrity of our public schools by maintaining current employment practices.
David Hansen