Is APS Examining All Savings Opportunities?

Albuquerque Public Schools has drawn plenty of criticism — and rightfully so — for threatening to scrap middle-school sports.

The cut is estimated to save $600,000. That’s a hefty sum to the average citizen, but it represents just 0.04 percent of the district’s billion-dollar-plus budget. Leaving aside the issue of lobbying/PR, there’s no question that such savings could be easily obtained by competitive contracting.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which studies free-market solutions to public problems in Michigan, conducts an annual survey to explore government-school sourcing of food, custodial, and transportation services. In its latest poll, the think tank found that 70.1 percent of districts hire private vendors to provide at least one of the services.

APS has a lot to learn from Michigan. Take transportation. The district has “a series of contracts with providers in the private sector,” but also has its “own bus operations.” In 2015, it “was obligated to take over the bus routes of three of its providers that ceased operations during the fiscal year.” Getting those routes back in the hands of contractors would surely yield savings from the $19.3 million transportation budget.

As for food services, APS spends $50.8 million on 19 “delivery vehicles” that haul “prepared and bulk foods from Central Kitchen to over 140 school sites every day, with most making two trips to each location.” Obtaining just a little more than 1 percent savings from that expense would cover the cost of middle-school sports.

Finally, the Maintenance & Operations Department, tasked with creating “an environment conducive to student achievement and success by providing safe, clean, comfortable, aesthetic, and purposeful indoor and outdoor learning spaces throughout the District in meeting the needs of the education process,” has a $40.3 million budget. Outsourcing the bureaucracy’s duties should be the easiest of the three noninstructional services to “marketize.”

If APS exists to provide education to students in an efficient, accountable manner, then competitive contracting is a no-brainer. If the district exists to offer livelihoods to unionized, politically active employees, then it should ignore outsourcing options and keep doing what it’s doing.

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3 Replies to “Is APS Examining All Savings Opportunities?”

  1. Teacher absenteeism has a major impact on school costs and is a driver of lower student achievement. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, New Mexico is the fifth-worst state for teacher attendance, with 47.5% of teachers absent for 10 days or more per year.;

    APS’ resistance to the state’s modest attempt to manage teacher attendance imposes heavy costs on both the budget and the students.

    1. Thanks, James. One of many issues elected officials and taxpayers need to be looking at with APS. It’s clear that the educrats aren’t terribly interested in reforming themselves.

  2. As has been stated before, APS has a budget of 1.3 BILLION dollars for about 85,000 students. Dividing the latter number into the former comes out to more than $15,000 per student. And APS says that it needs more.

    When I came here in the 1970’s, APS was one of the most miserable performing school districts in the country. Nearly 40 years and billions of dollars later, it still is. It has absolutely no incentive to clean up its act as, regardless of its performance, the state legislature keeps giving it more and more money.

    Time for an education revolution in NM. Let’s start a movement to have a constitutional amendment that permits the NM public education dollar to follow the student to public or private school. Let’s see if APS can survive when it’s not a monopoly. Too bad we don’t have voter ballot initiatives like they have in California.

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