Privatization gets failing grade in Edmonton Public Schools
We Care media release, 28 May 1997
Edmonton - The results of a 17 month evaluation of contracting out demonstrated clearly that contractors could not do the work in Edmonton's Public Schools. Just as importantly, the independent Evaluators found that privatization actually interfered with the Board's ability to meet its obligations under the School Act.
"Finally the nonsense that private companies can do public sector work better than public employees and managers has been put to the test", said Doug Luellman, President of the Public Board's custodial staff, CUPE Local 474. "And the private firms have been found wanting. Custodial work in schools is not the same as just cleaning an office building. We are there to ensure the students work not just in a clean school, but also in a secure environment."
The performance of the Board's own staff own staff exceeded that of the contractors by 18%. Yet the contractors costs in four of the five schools were higher than the Board's own staff by an average of 10%. The fifth school contract bid was too low to do the job and complaints arose throughout the 17 month experiment. At the end of the pilot project, in-house custodians had to clean up the school. The estimated cost of this clean up is $10,000.
More disturbing were the findings that contracting out could not "reliably deliver the safety, security and therefore the stability required in a school setting". The bidding process itself resulted in driving down wages so low that the contract companies could not keep staff. Low wages led to low skill levels and high labour turnover. The turnover rate was 500% in the contract schools. Yet if contractors paid decent wages, they would have lost the bid.
The high turnover in contract schools "made the feeling of security non-existent". Principals complained of unlocked doors and windows. Principals and teachers in contract schools were constantly diverted from their principle responsibilities to deal with custodial matters. Parents expressed concern about who was working in these schools.
"It's time the province backed off pretending that privatization and contracting out are the solutions to its deep funding cuts to education", said Luellman. "It's time the province put back the money it cut to maintain to keep our schools clean and secure."
For a twenty page brief/summary or a copy of the 123 page original study
Phone: (403) 424-9696
CUPE 474: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/5202/474.htm