I’ve written plenty about Aramark in Michigan, the company that rakes in piles of your tax money as governments outsource key services to this for-profit corporation. I’ve also talked about how their for-profit prison food contracts have had problems in other states, as well.
But Aramark isn’t just in the prison food business. One of the other things they do is janitorial services. When Chicago Public Schools privatized this service to two companies, one of which was Aramark, things went seriously downhill.
Filthy buildings. Principals overseeing cleaning or hiring extra help out of pocket. Teachers scrambling to clean classrooms in time for the first days of school. Reports of missing, broken and misplaced equipment. Mouse poop.
That’s what many Chicago Public School principals say resulted after CPS privatized janitorial services in the schools to the tune of $340 million, and neither CPS nor Aramark have fixed the problems even after being informed of the situation.
Some 226 principals (CPS operates 516 schools) responded to a survey taken by AAPPLE, a new activist group under the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The Aramark contract is the first issue the group is tackling, calling now on the Board of Education to rescind its $240 million contract with Aramark if the facilities giant can’t maintain “ordinary tidiness” standards known in the industry as APPA Level 2.
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.
Aramark is responding to this by laying off nearly 500 employees. No word yet on how CPS schools will be cleaned better after that.
About 230 principals responded to the survey, with most of them saying the number of custodial staff has been reduced and is now inadequate and the cleanliness of their buildings has been negatively affected.
A principal of a South Side school that is comprised of three buildings and more than 1,500 students says she now has just one day custodian, down from three. “The day custodian is running around here like a crazy lady,” says the principal, who did not want to be identified. “And it is filthy.”
In February, the Board of Education approved two three-year contracts—one for $260 million for Aramark and the other for $80 million to Sodexmagic. Aramark was to take over the training, supervision and management of custodians for all but 33 schools. Sodexmagic would handle the job for the other 33 schools.
When Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley presented the proposal to the board, he said the deal would save the district $40 million, lead to cleaner buildings and incorporate state-of-the-art cleaning technology, such as cleaning Zambonis.
Cawley did not say the contract would result in layoffs.
When you outsource government functions to a for-profit corporation, you can expect them to cut corners to increase their profits. It is happening all around the country and Aramark is just the poster child for it; many other corporations are getting fat on our tax dollars as well.
It’s a failed experiment and, whether its rats in the classroom or maggots in the food of prisoners, there is plenty of data to show how colossal a failure it is.
And it’s time for it to end.