Outsourcing in Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne Community Schools expect to save $4.4 million by outsourcing school custodians. The FWCS school board voted 6-1 for an agreement that will “cut wages, shrink custodial staff and force more than 200 custodians to apply for jobs,” according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.

The school corporation is contracting with Sodexo, the international outsourcing giant. According to the J-G, much of the savings will come from eliminating 24 jobs and cutting wages by as much as $6 an hour. The district’s 217 custodians can apply to Sodexo to keep their jobs.

FWCS officials said they regretted having to make the decision but didn’t have much choice given cuts in state funding.

We’re likely to see more outsourcing of nonteaching employees around Indiana as school districts struggle to balance their budgets. Indeed, the State Board of Education encouraged outsourcing in a “citizens’ checklist” on how to cut school spending. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett praised FWCS for its decision to contract with Sodexo and “put the best interest of its students first” –- even if the parents of some of those students may no longer be making a living wage.

The Monroe County Community School Corp. stayed away from wage cuts when it considered outsourcing custodians this spring. It even wrote wage, benefit and seniority protections for its custodians into a proposed contract for custodial services. The MCCSC board, relying on a memo last fall from the state Department of Local Government Finance, thought it could pay a custodial contractor from its capital projects fund, freeing up to $4 million in the general fund to pay teachers and librarians.

There was just one problem: IC 20-40-8, the state law that governs school capital projects funds, never says they can be used to pay custodians, regardless of whether they are outsourced or school-employed. Neither does 50 IAC 9, the state administrative code that spells out the rules for using capital projects funds. When the DLGF clarified its position, the MCCSC dropped the idea.

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