Inside: Maintenance

Feb. 1, 2004
Cleaner California Restrooms; More Outsourcing Sought in NYC; Snapshot: Average Maintenance Worker


For schools in California, keeping bathrooms clean is not just desirable — it's the law.

A law that went into effect in January mandates that every public and private school in California “keep every restroom maintained and cleaned regularly, fully operational, and stocked with soap and paper supplies.”

An institution that fails to correct a violation 30 days after being notified risks losing maintenance funding from the state.

The law also includes provisions that require institutions to keep school bathrooms open and available to students during school hours.

“The state regulates bathroom conditions for prisoners, office and farm workers but nothing protecting the health and safety of our children,” says Sen. Kevin Murray, author of the bill. “This legislation will ensure clean bathrooms for our students.”


New York City school officials are looking at replacing as many as 486 of the school system's 830 in-house maintenance workers with private contractors.

School Chancellor Joel Klein produced an analysis that showed that private contractors could provide maintenance services at a cost 46 percent less than in-house staff members. Private contractors already are responsible for about one-third of the maintenance services in New York City schools. The analysis indicated that the additional privatization would save the school system $20 million.

Union officials have disputed the school system's contention that privatized workers are more productive than in-house maintenance staff.

They argue that maintenance and repair workers employed by the district take better care of school facilities than private contractors.


Who are the more than 300,000 people cleaning and maintaining the nation's public elementary, middle and high schools?

A brochure from The National Education Association provides some guidance. The average age of a school custodian or maintenance worker is 49; 73 percent are men; 75 percent are married; 32 percent have school-age children; and 18 percent have a second job.

The average maintenance worker has been on the job for 11.1 years, the NEA says, and 65 percent of workers live in the school district that employs them. About 39 percent of school maintenance employees work at the pre-kindergarten through elementary level; about 16 percent in middle schools; about 25 percent in high schools; and about 21 percent at the district level or at multiple buildings.


Custodians and maintenance workers


Skilled trade services workers


Transportation services workers


Source: National Education Association, Education Support Personnel Data Book

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