Recently, Molly Ivins wrote a column critical of the business-world experience of President Bush's Cabinet. While a Cabinet made up almost entirely of corporate CEOs and directors may be worse than one comprised almost exclusively of lawyers, as was the case under Bill Clinton, one of Ivins' arguments begs for rebuttal.
In her opposition to Secretary of Education Rod Paige, the former superintendent of the 205,000-student Houston Independent School District, she stated, "He promoted corporatization. Food service went to Aramark Inc., payroll to Peoplesoft and accounting to SAP."
I did a little checking. An October 1996 School Performance Review by the Texas comptroller of public accounts estimated that outsourcing food service, when fully implemented in the 1999-2000 school year, would reap an annual savings of $16.7 million. In today's market, that money can purchase almost 17,000 computers.
Now which is a student more likely to notice - a new computer on her desk, or the fact that her fish sticks are no longer prepared by a full-time employee of her school district? Whenever these kinds of savings are possible, school districts and municipalities that don't investigate the opportunity are derelict in their duties.