Roaches And Rodents And Trash -- Oh My! Chicago Schools' Custodial Outsourcing Produces Predictable Results
September 15, 2014

Any minimally intelligent voter should know by now that not only does outsourcing a service make it less likely it will be done properly, it doesn't really save money -- because taxpayers often end up paying twice: Once for the outsourcing version, the other to get it done properly after the outsourced company does a half-assed job. So why do voters keep falling for the politics of scarcity that aren't really about scarcity at all, but about moving public money to private profit? Rahm Emanuel's administration is a textbook case:

Nearly half of the principals in the district responded to a survey by the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association and said that ever since the school district awarded $340 million in two custodial management contracts in February to private concerns, their schools have been filthy,according to Catalyst Chicago. Principals reported serious problems with rodents, roaches and other bugs, filthy floors, overflowing garbage bins, filthy toilets, missing supplies such as toilet paper and soap, and broken furniture — issues they said they didn’t have before. Now, many said, they spend a lot of time trying to clean their buildings.

The three-year contracts were awarded to Aramark ($260 million) and Sodexmagic ($80 million) to clean Chicago’s schools. At the time, school district spokesman Joel Hood issued a statement saying that the contracts would give “measurable benefits” that will make the schools “significantly cleaner while also saving the district tens of millions of dollars.” The district said a survey had showed that most schools were not clean enough before the contracts were awarded.

There’s more: Now about 475 custodians who work under the management of Aramark — out of the district’s force of 2,500 — are going to be laid off, district officials said, a move that angered Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School and chairman of the activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association that sent out the survey. He sent an e-mail to principals that said in part:

“They don’t have enough custodians as it is and now this private company wants to lay off nearly 500 more in order to decrease their payroll and increase their profit margins at the expense of our schools and our students.”

The Chicago Sun Times reported that last week, Aramark sent an e-mail to principals saying that it had “heard — loud and clear — the concerns raised by principals” and that it realized the company had “not delivered on the promise of making principals’ lives easier.” It said it would hold meetings with principals to solve the problems.

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