The private company that owned the bus involved in Monday’s wreck in Chattanooga that killed five [six] elementary school students has had 142 crashes with injuries and three fatalities in the past 24 months, according to federal records. Here
I’m thinking of the pictures this past week of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos beaming about school choice–vouchers and charters. Do they see any analogy with privatized school bus services?
Both boast they will “go after the status quo” or they will “break the monopoly.” Those are favorite catch phrases having to do with privatization.
This involves loosening rules and regulations in the name of profit and free market–so-called competition. Costs are cut at the bottom so that those at the top can make a profit.
For many years we have watched privatization sneak into schools in various forms. One is privatizing school services. Many school districts now hire outside school bus companies to transport children.
Durham is one of those companies.
The National Education Association (NEA) is a union the privatization enthusiasts scorn. Yet, one of the best write-ups against privatizing outside services when it comes to public schools comes from the NEA. Here
Advocates of privatization argue the profit motive provides an incentive for efficiency, but all too often it is actually an incentive to “cut corners” by skimping on the quality of the work performed. In order to keep costs low and profits high, contractors typically pay lower wages and offer fewer benefits to educational support workers, making it difficult to attract and retain a quality workforce.
When schools outsource the serious job of transporting students, they entrust an outside company to do the job we taxpayers pay for. We become responsible for such decisions by permitting our local school boards to choose the company that comes up with the lowest bid.
How about the analogy of privatizing school buses and school choice and charters?
Neither Trump nor DeVos seem to understand the research that shows choice and charters don’t work.
In their minds, anyone can teach. Like the idea that anyone can drive a school bus.
Anyone can run a school is what they believe too. If it doesn’t work, another will pop up. Money lost. Student learning interrupted. Give more money to the next charter or private school and hope this one will work. That’s competition to them.
There have been terrible violations involving charters and choice if one only cares to look.
A lot of people in this country, however, have been led to believe school competition is great. Let the chips fall where they may in the free market.
They seem to also dismiss the problems of choice and privatization when things go sour.
My late brother was a school bus driver. He took his job seriously and he was loved by the kids and their parents. After he died of cancer, I found notes and cards from students and parents grateful to him for the care he took to transport their children.
He was committed to the school district. It was like a second family to him.
More importantly, safety was everything. When the school district learned a bus driver had without thinking taken cold medication that could make you drowsy that person was fired.
When school districts turn to private companies it changes the dynamics. Just as vouchers and deregulating teaching gives students a second rate education.
When privatizing any service for parents the public might be deceived into thinking it’s great, but who will do the checking for them?
But the company’s buses have already had 17 wrecks in Tennessee so far this year.
In those wrecks, a total of 19 people were hurt and one person was killed.
The fatal crash happened in Memphis in September.
In 2014, WMC-TV in Memphis found Durham had more than 250 school bus crashes in Memphis in three years. Drivers were at fault more than half the time.
The report found Durham bus drivers with serious motor vehicle violations and drug records. A bus driver arrested for smoking marijuana on the bus had a previous felony record.
It’s easy to brag about choice. But as we saw this week, sadly, it it can be terribly risky business for children.
Will Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos look closely at the accident in Chattanooga and slow down their school choice chants? I hope so.