|Board drops outsourcing discussion|
|Friday, April 23, 2010|
By Marjorie Lloyd |
Put outsourcing on the agenda for a Board of Education meeting, and every seat in the chamber is filled with classified employees, families and other school system employees, with more waiting in the corridor and outside.
School nutrition services, transportation and custodians once again were under scrutiny as a potential source for reducing the $7 million budget shortfall the staff is predicting for 2010-11 at this week’s meeting of the Board of Education.
The issue in the form of “discussion and/or action regarding Requests for Proposals” brought murmurs for the crowd, applause for some comments and relief when the motion by Rob Wheeler (District 5) “to drop” all RFPS related to nutrition, transportation and custodial services was passed.
Another issue involved in discussion, not for the first time, was whether or not board committees have the authority to issue the RFPs.
“Outside of the fact that we’re dealing with the lives and families of our employees who are most concerned about this, we‘ve just taken a vote to try and submit a balanced budget by May 20–however many items you need to meet in order to do that—we haven’t done that yet, At the very last resort, in my judgment, the outsourcing and the unsettled decision for our employees, to outsource any of these three is the very last resort we should come to before we examine the entire budget and cut whatever else we need to cut,” said Wheeler after he made the motion.
Mike Fussell (District 1) argued that the board did not have enough information about the potential for savings that outsourcing might provide. Then he quoted a line from the writings of Sir Francis Bacon from his Franklin planner that he considered “applicable” to the situation: “A prudent question is one half of wisdom.”
Fussell commented, “Not one member of this board can make a informed decision (about outsourcing); none of us have the facts. It costs us nothing to get the facts. We would be voting not to be educated.”
Wheeler commented, “I’m looking at a roomful of facts.”
Beth Cox (District 4) asserted that in her research on the issue, she had spoken with the Tennessee School Boards Association’s attorney, and that he stated committees did not have the authority to issue RFPs.
”To send out RFPs is the responsibility of the board. To say the committee has the responsibility to do the RFPs—that is not true. A committee can send out requests for information.”
“The second point–to tell me I don’t have the information about outsourcing, maybe some of us went out to our principal and teachers and asked them how they feel about outsourcing … We’ve been around this before…. Don’t tell me I don’t have the information to make an informed decision. That’s insulting to me. I do have the information before me, I did my research. I can make an informed decision, thank you. The third point, we have voted on this decision two or three times. We made the decision to have one board, one voice, so let’s do that.”
Ben Harris (District 7) said he had one statement. “I don’t see how we can sit here and think we’ll solve all the county’s problems on the least paid people in the system.”
In addition to Fussell, Tim Brewer (District 2), Don Long (District 3), and Danny Hale (District 6) voted against the motion with Wheeler, Cox, Harris, Ted Wise (District 8), Will Duncan (District 9), Glen Gregory (District 10) and David Brown (District 11) voting in favor of dropping the issue of RFPs for outsourcing on nutrition, transportation and custodial services. However, technology, also on the agenda, was not mentioned in the motion.