Right now there are three contracts that have expired in the Rockford school district. Food service, maintenance and bus drivers are currently negotiating a new contract, but there is also talks going on with District 205 and private companies to look at outsourcing these jobs.
Before the Rockford School Board meeting Tuesday night is an informational picket. The message hundreds are walking to spread is, "I'm not for sale. Don't privatize me." More than 700 jobs would be affected if district 205 contracts out bus drivers, maintenance workers and food service staff.
Every day 27,000 students get on and off District 205 buses, but now private companies like student riders are bidding to take the district down the outsourcing road.
Peggy Doner, the president of local 1275 and a bus driver, says, "To bring in a contractor would uproar everything in the city and put a lot of people on unemployment."
Outsourcing bus drivers would mean a private company would come in, buy all district 205 buses and then have to find about 300 drivers. Drivers could then possibly be hired back by the private company, but those behind the wheel now say the district should stop and think about the hidden costs outsourcing brings.
"All that extra stuff like picking up late kids or unexpected field trips they will charge. The district is not charged for extras like that with us," says Peggy.
To 10-year driver Cathy Ainely, what's not being added to the overall cost is what she calls a personal touch.
"We know we have the most precious cargo on board. There's not a day that goes by that I don't realize how important I am driving other children around," Cathy says.
Maintenance, food service and drivers are all in the middle of contract negotiations. There is the possibility that if the district does go with a private company, the private company would pick-up whatever contract is agreed on. That would mean the current staff would stay.
Bids for outsourcing these jobs are due in next Tuesday. No final decisions will be made until Rockford Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson and board members review the options.