Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Outsourcing of Custodial Services . . . Scapegoat for TESD Budget Woes or a Way to Save Educational Programming

I have mixed feelings on the issue of outsourcing of TESD’s custodial services. If you simply look at the bottom line, there is a cost savings of almost $1 million to the school district if the custodial services is outsourced. The school district is facing a major budget deficit and the contracting of support services not related to curriculum delivery is one option under consideration by school board members.

Several custodial members of TENIG (Tredyffrin Easttown Non-Instructional Group) union spoke at the last TEDS Finance Committee, and there are other issues to consider in making an outsourcing decision. Custodial employees number under 30% of the total membership in the TENIG union — 49 custodians. As we heard at the Finance Meeting, many of these custodian union members are long-standing district employees. Many of the custodial employees are local residents and there is growing concern whether or not they could find another job, should their work be outsourced. How will they support their families? As neighbors in the community, should this be a concern? Should school board members show compassion for the custodial employees when deciding whether to outsource the service?

I get the sense among some of the TENIG custodians that they feel they have become the target in the school district’s budget woes. We understand that privatization is seen as a way to preserve the classroom and its programming, but it does come with a human toll.

Outsourcing services that historically have been in-house functions with long-time employees is a major shift in institutional culture — despite the cost savings that could be realized. Probably the biggest and most difficult obstacle to outsourcing the custodial support service is the ability of staff and community to accept the change, or even the consideration, in spite of the current budget pressures and economic realities.

Can outsourcing provide the same level of productivity and quality of job performance as the current union employees? One could argue that the current custodians have developed a connection with the schools and the students. As a result, these employees may argue that they will do a better job than an outsourced company who does not share that same level of ‘ownership’ in the school system.

The RFP for outsourcing of services was issued by the school board with a deadline for bids in early April. Once the outsourced service provider bids are returned, it will be interesting to see if TENIG’s custodial employees are prepared to match the outsourcing proposals.

Bottom line . . . the school district is faced with financial challenges in the budget. If outsourcing of the custodial services can save the district $950K, should privatization take priority over education and programming cuts? On the other hand, if TENIG is prepared to make a concession and meet the district somewhere in the middle, can we agree that is acceptable? This is only the beginning . . . TENIG is the precursor to the teacher union negotiations; setting the stage for what is to come.


Reminder: Tonight is the TESD School Board meeting. The location has been changed to Conestoga High School, 7:30 PM. Click here for the School Board agenda.

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  1. Everyone has read this over the past decade, but just in case we are reaching a younger audience….

    Tax Cuts – A Simple Lesson In Economics

    This is how the cookie crumbles. Please read it carefully.

    Let’s put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

    The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
    The fifth would pay $1.
    The sixth would pay $3.
    The seventh $7.
    The eighth $12.
    The ninth $18.
    The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

    So, that’s what they decided to do.

    The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20.”

    So, now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.

    So, the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six, the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share’?

    The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being ‘PAID’ to eat their meal.

    So, the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

    And so:

    The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
    The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
    The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
    The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
    The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
    The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
    Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

    “I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man “but he got $10!”

    “Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than me!”

    “That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

    “Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”

    The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

    The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

    And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore. Europe and places around the world welcome their income…and their jobs and their factories and their capital investment. The World is Flat….

    Don’t know if this has ANYTHING to offer, but it’s always an interesting debate.

  2. Pattye: “Can outsourcing provide the same level of productivity and quality of job performance as the current union employees?

    Does anybody seriously think that a union increases productivity, quality, or performance? There is overwhelming evidence to the contrary: Modern unions, especially public unions and unions in closed-shop states like PA, are simply a legalized monopoly, with all the problems that go with it.

    Besides, save your tears: If the custodians are really that competent any contractor will just rehire them. They’ll keep their jobs, but they’ll have to earn a market wage — like most of the rest of us lucky enough to have jobs right now.

  3. If TENIG allows it, the custodians will have an opportunity to match the bid of an outside provider. They can decide whether they want to be TE employees or not. If TENIG does not allow it (as was the case with the bus drivers), then given the current salary structure, they will not be able to keep the jobs. They WILL do a better job than outsiders coming in — initially anyway — because they are quite TE Proud as a group — I’ve seen other buildings in the summer and at opening and ours outshine them all. But it’s a matter of where we put our dollars. IN the classroom, or in the hall.

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