Today’s economic crisis has brought about a need in virtually all school districts across the United States to reduce costs. Policymakers must re-evaluate the purpose for which the school district was established and set priorities based on the needs of the students, not their employees. These are difficult times for school administrators and school board members alike. Having had a unique transportation system at their disposal, often with entire careers devoted to operating it, school district transportation professionals at all levels are naturally reluctant to relinquish their responsibilities or even acknowledge the many changes which have already begun to unfold as perhaps inevitable. To feel otherwise would be inconsistent with both the dedication and effectiveness of these individuals. Nevertheless, policymakers must make informed objective decisions based on facts that support the educational goals of their students, not the careers of their employees.
- FACT: All drivers, public or private, must meet the same state and federal licensing standards to drive a school bus in their state.
- FACT: Moststates have minimum training standards and curriculum. Private contractors meet or exceed minimum standards as they operate in many states and use the highest standards required for all states. Many school districts do the minimum ‘required only’ training due to limited resources. “We do the minimum amount of training that’s required by the state. We would love to do more, but we can’t afford it” (Heather Bacus, Human Resources Director, Adrian Public schools, Daily Telegram, Michigan 3-24-09)
- FACT: Districts throughout the United States that have privatized their transportation operations have saved millions of dollars in 2008-2009 school year alone. These savings are compounded year after year. These saved dollars have been used by the districts to enhance their educational programs and helped to avoid teacher layoffs. Annual increases are limited to contract agreements in the district’s RFP or bid, which are usually significantly less than district employee contracts. Private contracting eliminates the districts’ labor management issues.
- FACT: Private contractors hire local residents and existing local district school bus drivers, who pay taxes and often have children attending local schools. Both district and contractor drivers have but one goal: to transport the children of the district safely each day. More times than not, they are the same people!
- FACT: Private contractor and district school buses must meet the same maintenance standards set by their respective states. Private contractors set the highest preventative maintenance standards for their fleets.
- FACT: Private contractors must provide services based on the standards set by the district in the contract agreement. District operations have to deal with grievances and employee contract negotiations, whereas that is not an issue for the district when they contract for services. Districts can have a contracted driver removed from their district at any time for any justifiable reason. Many Superintendents have stated they have ‘fewer headaches’ with contracted transportation services and can spend their time on educational issues.
- FACT: Private contractor fleets are newer, on average, than district fleets due to the utilization of industry lifecycle replacement schedules for their vehicles, whereas district fleet replacement is usually subject to budget constraints, BOE approval and/or voter approval. As such, districts have difficulty in maintaining a replacement schedule when economic times become difficult.
- FACT: Contractors make a profit through economies of scale, opportunity costs and operational efficiencies, while still operating less expensively than a district operation.
- Private contractors usually own and maintain facilities in the districts in which they operate and pay significant property and school taxes or rent the districts existing facility providing added revenue to the district
- Private contractors hire local residents and often district drivers when a district privatizes
- Private contractors usually support local district programs through scholarships and other worthwhile educational programs.
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