Industry News

Privatization of Custodial Services in Public Schools Could Cut Costs Dramatically

Maximizing Efficiency: The Case for Privatization of Custodial Services in Public Schools

School districts across the nation are grappling with the ongoing challenge of reducing costs without compromising the quality of education. A focal point of this cost-cutting conversation is the custodial and maintenance sector, which has faced increasing scrutiny in recent times.

The Current Landscape

As per the National Education Association (NEA), while some strides have been made in enhancing efficiency, there’s a growing concern about short-sighted approaches to cost-cutting that may have adverse effects on school districts’ physical infrastructure, the quality of education imparted, and the well-being of the employees involved.

Custodial and maintenance workers, constituting 16.9% of the public school workforce, encompass various roles:

  • Building and Grounds Maintenance Staff
  • Custodians and Housekeepers
  • Mechanics (except vehicle) and Repairers
  • Laborers, Helpers, and Warehouse Personnel
  • Non-Managerial Supervisors

These dedicated individuals play a crucial role in maintaining school buildings, ensuring cleanliness, addressing repairs, and managing essential tasks ranging from snow removal to boiler maintenance.

Concerns Arising

A survey conducted for the 30th Annual Maintenance & Operations Cost Study for Public Schools shed light on several concerns among school employees in this sector:

Lack of Job Guidelines

A significant number (24%) of custodial and maintenance staff members reported having no job description at all. Among those with a job description, 69% expressed having no input into their job descriptions, and 59% occasionally found themselves performing tasks outside their defined roles.

Workload and Inequities

The increasing trend of privatization and outsourcing of custodial services has sparked worries among workers. As districts aim to control expenses, employees note a surge in their workloads, accompanied by growing disparities among workers in the same job category.

Safety Concerns

Working with hazardous materials, ladders, staging, and electrical hazards raises genuine concerns about safety. Employees stressed the need for comprehensive health and safety training to keep abreast of new equipment, evolving work methods, the introduction of new chemicals, and changing government regulations.

Moving Forward

The data reveals a pressing need for meaningful professional development programs and a heightened focus on the health and safety of custodial staff within public schools. As discussions about the privatization of custodial services continue, striking a balance between efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the well-being of school employees emerges as a critical consideration in the evolving landscape of public education.