AUSTIN, Texas — State Senate committee members here approved a bill last week that would shut down a financially strapped school bus agency, and that bill goes before the Texas Senate this week.
SB 1122 would dissolve Dallas County Schools, which provides school bus services to 12 North Texas school districts, according to NBC DFW. The shutdown would be effective Sept. 1, 2018. In the meantime, a dissolution committee would be formed by Sept. 1, 2017. That committee would encourage the “component” school districts to continue sharing services received from Dallas County Schools and to give preference to private sector contractors to continue those services after the dissolution.
SB 1122 was approved by the Senate Education Committee in a 9-1 vote on Thursday. The bill is expected to be debated by the Texas Senate this week.
The school bus agency has struggled recently with reports of financial problems, questionable business dealings, and complaints from school districts on the agency’s performance, Dallas News reports. As previously reported, Dallas County Schools also had problems with a stop-arm program that spurred lawsuits against the cities of Dallas and Carrollton.
Sen. Don Huffines, who introduced the bill, called Dallas County Schools “outdated and unnecessary” in a statement last week.
“With the abolition of Dallas County Schools, the future will be brighter for Dallas students, taxpayers, and schools,” Huffines added in the statement.
Meanwhile, Dallas County Schools Interim Superintendent Leatha Mullins released a statement on Thursday that said the school bus agency provided a draft audit, completed by outside financial consultants, to the Senate Education Committee before it voted last week that demonstrates that the agency is “financially sound and viable for the future.”
"DCS professionals have performed herculean tasks to reorganize the agency, realign its focus to Dallas County and correct deficiencies in the business practices and operations,” Mullins added in the statement. “There is a new interim superintendent, business director of finance, transportation director, and other operating managers. In addition, the management of the stop-arm program outside of Dallas has been outsourced and the business practices are now following best practices models. It’s a stronger district now, and we look forward to presenting the new DCS to the full Senate and the House."
One of the districts that Dallas County Schools has provided services for, Coppell Independent School District, notified parents in a letter on March 29 of its decision to hire Durham School Services, starting with the 2017-18 school year. Superintendent Dr. Mike Waldrip wrote that the change was made due to project student enrollment growth and “the need for more comprehensive transportation services.” Waldrip also expressed appreciation for the cooperation that the district has received from Dallas County Schools over the years.