This Is What Happens When Chicago Privatizes School Janitorial Services

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The standard Republican meme, that everything is better done by the private sector, has been debunked in almost every way imaginable (more on that in a bit), but there’s perhaps no more graphic an example of the private sector being much, much worse than the unionized public sector than the Chicago Public Schools janitorial staff.

One Southwest Side elementary principal — who along with others did not want her name printed for fear of retribution — said in a telephone interview that since Aramark took over the school, it has developed a problem with bugs and rodents that are feasting on garbage and on spilled drops of milk on floors that aren’t being cleaned enough, she said.

She’s yet to visit classrooms this year because she has been dealing with too many cleaning issues. The exterminator she called in told her he’s seeing pest problems in lots of schools because their classrooms aren’t being thoroughly cleaned.

Her school used to be spotless. Now, she said, “it’s a nightmare. What bothers me the most is my children, many of them come from environments that are not in the best shape…This is the only welcoming place they get, and I put a lot of time painting classrooms and making things look very friendly or cozy.”

Source: Chicago Sun Times

Aramark was awarded the three-year, $260 million contract in March of this year. A second contract, with Sodexmagic is worth $80 million. The promise was that the schools would be “significantly cleaner” and would save between $40 and $54 million over three years, which seems to have come from cutting janitorial positions, scrimping on supplies and trimming overtime.

The contracts will provide “measurable benefits that will make our schools significantly cleaner while also saving the district tens of millions of dollars,” CPS spokesman Joel Hood said in a statement. “… Currently, CPS utilizes over 1,000 suppliers for various facility management functions, and this contract will allow us to consolidate, modernize and improve the quality of service across all schools.”

CPS officials have said the contract will save the district between $40 and $54 million over three years through increases in productivity, reduced capital maintenance and energy efficiencies. CPS did not give more specifics on how the savings will be reached.

Already, CPS documents say the district has saved $50 million by cutting janitorial positions, saving money on supplies, making other unspecified “custodial reductions” and trimming overtime.

Source: DNA of Chicago

One of the biggest myths in the Republican/libertarian war against government is that the private sector does things better and cheaper. It’s simply not true. In fact, the city of Chicago should have learned that lesson in 2009 when they signed a 75-year agreement to privatize the city’s parking meters. The meters soon began to malfunction, rates increased, people began to shy away from the city and merchants lost business.

Chicago’s neighbor, Gary, Indiana, experienced its own nightmare with privatization. In 2010, they cancelled a contract with United Water, who was literally poisoning the city with inadequate water filtration.

One Chicago principal is furious about the situation in his school and he is doing something about it. The Washington Post reprinted an email that Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School and chairman of the activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administration, sent to fellow school principals:

“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.”

Read the rest from the Washington Post

Aramark has responded by saying that they have heard the concerns and that they have not delivered. They plan to hold meetings.