The Rockford School Board will hold a special meeting and public hearing at 5:30 p.m. today to review its options to potentially outsource transportation services. The district has already published an Invitation for Bids for both transportation and nutrition services.
This is an exploratory exercise that's been under consideration for more than a year. The School Board has tasked the administration to consider the best, most efficient way to use taxpayer dollars and still provide quality services for students. Most Illinois school districts outsource these roles to third-party companies.
The district's decision to seek out bids is not connected to ongoing contract negotiations. It's been periodically discussed at least since 2009 when there is an open contract. This administration began seriously considering outsourcing in January 2016, and bid documents were drafted starting in June 2016. The exploration is consistent with the School Board's strategic goal No. 5: Fiscal & Operational Stewardship.
At tonight's meeting, administrators will present a bid to the School Board from First Student that would bring the district a net savings of $400,000 over three years, according to conservative estimates. For some comparison, that's the equivalent cost of four RPS 205 certified teachers. The offer proposed by AFSCME Local 1275 would cost the district an estimated $2M over three years, which is over and above the cost of District's implemented offer.
This exploratory exercise does not mean the district will enter into a third-party contract. The district will only enter into a contract if it meets the district's strategic goals and high expectations. Union leaders for transportation and nutrition services have been invited to participate in this process. The School Board has the final approval of any contract.
The meeting is at 5:30 p.m. today in the third floor board room of the Administration Building, 501 7th St.
Has the district outsourced any other services?
Yes. Several services are provided by third-party organizations, such as special education transportation and custodial services. The district contracted custodial services for its buildings starting in 2004. As a result, the district has saved millions of dollars.
Will employees lose their jobs?
District leaders expect current employees would apply for jobs with the third-party company. In many cases, employees will be eligible to perform the same work for the contractor. Here's how the process might work: In the event the district selects a contract for a third party to provide non-instructional services currently performed by district employees, the positions covered by the new contract will be eliminated. Employees will receive 90 days' notice prior to any lay off.
The Illinois School Code requires the new contractor to offer available positions under the contract to the district's qualified employees who lost their jobs because of the contract. Additionally, the contract must provide a benefits package for the contractor's employees which is comparable to the benefits provided to district employees who perform those services. Finally, the contract must contain nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity for all persons.
What does this mean for students, parents and staff?
We don't expect students, parents or staff would see a difference in services. If anything, services might be enhanced. The contractor would also perform the same background checks on its employees as the district does for its own employees.
What's the timeline for this process?
The district is required to give employees 90 days' notice under the outsourcing statute prior to laying off affected employees. Tentative timeline:
May 2: School Board will host a special meeting and public hearing on outsourcing offers/plans for transportation.
May 10: Affected employees would be notified. (This date complies with the 90-day notice requirement.)
June 1: School Board could award a contract for outsourcing transportation.