Outsourcing education services is simply when a school district hires an outside agency to provide specialized education for their school. These services can vary from teaching through technology such as teletherapy, or simply bringing in outside school professionals to provide speech-language pathology, school psychology, and much more. In this article, we focused on the pros and cons of specifically outsourcing occupational therapy.
Why Are Schools Using Outsourcing Services?
Public schools across the country are in a budget crisis. This is not a secret and has been increasing in severity in recent years. The costs to keep older buildings in running order and to give full-time employees benefits have skyrocketed. At the same time, most schools are seeing an increase in the number of students that require school therapy services. This increase could be seen in special education, speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or counseling. These mandated therapies, often part of an IEP, come with a hefty price tag.
With cost increases, districts find themselves looking for ways to control expenditures while keeping services that students need. One option that some are utilizing is outsourcing school therapy. This means that, rather than employ their own providers, they hire an outside agency to provide the district with therapists. This is a highly controversial topic with pros and cons that must be weighed very carefully by all schools.
Pros of Outsourcing
When looking into outsourcing services, many call upon the savings as the primary reason to hire from outside. The district will not be responsible for the benefits associated with the individuals coming into the school. In addition to this, there is a decrease in administrative overhead. The agency that is hired would take over the cost of overseeing the professionals that would be working with the children. When an occupational therapist calls in sick now, there is typically no way to make up those missed sessions. Outsourcing means that the agency would have substitutes that would be available at any given time to replace another individual that could not work. There would be no additional cost to the school for a substitute because it was already factored into the contract.
Cons of Outsourcing
One of the biggest concerns about outsourcing services is the impact that it will have on the students. Will there be continuity with providers? When there are therapists that work for the district, you always know the person that will be working with you. This may not be the case when there is a larger pool of therapists to provide physical, occupational, speech, or other therapies. It is very important for children to have consistency and build a relationship with the adults they work with. This is something that has to be addressed with the agencies before being hired by schools. Who will assess when more services may be required? Would someone from the district level do this, or would it fall on the agency? Many parents worry about service denials and how this would impact their children.
In the end, districts must weigh the pros and cons listed above and research what other items may come into play for their individual situation. Everything should be factored before being presented to your board of education members.