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January 20, 2011  |   Comments (7)   |   Post a comment

Governor urges lawmakers to consider privatizing school buses


COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley, in her first State of the State address, asked lawmakers to privatize South Carolina's school bus system. Doing so, she said, would alleviate the state's budget crisis and provide newer buses for students.

The privatization of school buses was previously suggested by former governor Mark Sanford, prompting the formation of a committee to study the idea, News Channel 7 reports.

Despite these efforts, the system was never privatized. The state's budget shortfall of $829 million for 2012, however, could encourage lawmakers to move forward on this issue.  

In her address, Haley said, "We must also privatize our school bus system. ... Our government just doesn't need to be in the school bus maintenance business.

"Making this change would deliver our state a check for our old buses," she continued. "It would deliver our children a new fleet of buses. It would keep our school bus drivers employed while transferring our mechanics to the private sector. And it would put the focus of our Education Department where it needs to be: teaching our kids."

As SBF reported, the South Carolina Department of Education recently purchased 24 used school buses from an Alabama district to help upgrade the state's oldest-in-the-nation bus fleet.

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Read more about: budget cuts

If my memory serves me correctly, there have been previous INDEPENDENT studies that proved the Transportation Office, SC Dept of Education (SCDOE), is providing one of the most efficient and safest systems in the US, given the monies they have to work with. It has been PROVEN that private companies CANNOT provide the service that the SCDOE, Transportation Office, can at the same price. The shops and technicians who keep these buses SAFELY rolling should be congratulated. How can the Governor say that school bus transportation is not part of education? Approximately 60% of the students sitting in the classrooms arrive there via a school bus!

"e"    |    Jan 24, 2011 01:25 PM

Our state did a study of private and public run operations because of the same thought that the private sector could save money. What was found surprisingly was that there are well run public and well run private locations as well as poorly run private and poorly run public. To infer that the public operated system has no motivation or desire to be efficient or that a private company will automatically save money is short sighted.

Sam    |    Jan 24, 2011 10:30 AM

The Governor's suggestion puzzles me? Why would she think that support service such as transportation is not a part of education? We have free and reduced lunch. What does that have to do with education? The state maintains vehicles for DOT, police, etc. are those not support services for those agencies? Just an interesting perspective that many folks think so differently about pupil transportation and its value to education.

Anonymous    |    Jan 24, 2011 10:23 AM

In Ohio, we have a mixed fleet of private and public school transportation. On average school districts that use private transportation companies pay 20% more. I was hired to run transportation for a small district that had recently went from private transportation back to in-house. The first year I reduced the fleet by 5 drivers and sold 7 surplus buses. You will save headaches, but not money. You are far better off controlling your own purse strings.

Jacob    |    Jan 21, 2011 08:50 AM

Gov. Haley is precisely correct. While it is painful for public sector job security, privatizing is the best deal for taxpayers. In a few years, if contractors determine that they can't operate for the current price, there are several contractors that can step in to compete. Systems can even decide to employ several private contractors to keep the competition in place during the course of a contract. Requiring a quality product along with competetive pricing is something that a government run system has little incentive to provide. Maybe an entrepreneur or two starts a local business operating buses and you have a local corporate success story? Small business/corporate profit is not a dirty word. Unchecked government inefficiency and waste is a cancer that will bleed taxpayers dry. Change can be difficult, but it can also be very worthwhile. Private contractors are saving districts money all over the country because efficiency is a motive in a competitive environment. It is time for S.C. to get on board.

Paul Kolo    |    Jan 21, 2011 07:16 AM

Privatizing the school bus system is not the only way to help with the budget! Why not look at what costs can be cut in the state offices? There are a lot of at will employees and employees working on the Terry plan. The state could cut cost on school buses by getting newer buses in order to avoid the costly repairs of keeping older buses running. Our state has buses still on the road from 1986. We have buses from 1995 that have 300000-400000 miles on them. Privatizing is not the answer to the problem, all you will be doing is opening the door for outside companies to charge outrageous prices and employee turnover would be unreal. The school bus maintenance shops need to be upgraded along with the buses. The shops are still trying to repair buses with tools that are way outdated. It is time for the state to cut costs somewhere else and help provide the maintenance shops with the parts and tools to repair the buses. Maybe someone should look at other companies who privatized and didnt take long before they closed down.

stokes    |    Jan 20, 2011 06:42 PM

Lets see If I understand this correctly, You privatize your busing you will get a newer fleet and the labor will work for the private company and it will be cheaper. How is it a private for profit company can give you new buses and pay a decent wage for your drivers and mechanics and save you money vs your non profit school systems? What happens after a few years and the contractor decides to raise their rates because they aren't making enough profit and buses have increased in prices, also you own no buses so now you you are captive to contractors? You will still be paying the price, it will be hidden in that big check you sign every month. Maybe you should privatize education?

pat    |    Jan 20, 2011 05:01 PM

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