By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service
LANSING — The number of Michigan school districts contracting out at least a part of their transportation services increased 150 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to a think tank survey. The survey by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland recorded 78 school districts opting for some privatized transportation services during that time, in addition to 53 already contracting out. There are about 540 districts in the state, according to the Department of Education. And while some districts are contracting out only a portion of the service, such as employment, most are privatizing their whole bus operation, said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the center. Michigan School Business Officials Associate Executive Director Scott Little said the switch to privatized transportation services took off shortly after the Great Recession began in late 2007, largely as an effort to recoup money lost from declining student populations and state funding.