Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One More Michigan School District Contracts its Bus Service - Union Angry (Again)

One more school district sees the wisdom in privatizing its school bus service.
Benton Harbor’s move to use First Student Inc. of Cincinnati, owned by mass transit giant First Group drew a lot of ire from the unions. It even got Iris Salters, the $256,340 a year chief of the Michigan Education Association, to march around in a huff.
None other than the Federal Transit Administration has advocated for private school bus services, noting in a release to school district that “Many school districts throughout the nation contract with private school bus companies to provide cost-effective supplemental service or full service to students in their communities. Likewise, public transit agencies may find that private school bus companies can help keep their communities safe and mobile, by providing supplemental services to regular public transportation. Working with private school bus operators to provide supplemental public transportation service can help communities make more efficient use of their resources, while increasing mobility for community residents.”
Unions have long battled school districts who converted their bus services to a private firm in order to prune costs and avoid onerous union rules. We like this feeble effort to discredit privatization in that it bases its argument on a study by a guy named Mark Cassell, a board member of a labor advocacy group named Policy Matters Ohio. Apparently, there wasn’t a credible source to use.
At the same time, let’s allow that a reasonable source is in the eye of the beholder, and here’s our idea of credible when it comes to this issue.
But privatization of school bus service can often be a sound idea, allowing use of technology such as GPS that cash-strapped school districts can’t afford.
On the other hand, let’s recall that former Michigan Gov. John Engler - who now earns $1.3 million a year as head of the National Association of Manufacturers - so loved privatization that he did so even when it cost the taxpayer more. We’re still smarting over that folly.

School bus image by Flickr user wheany, CC 2.0

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