Few Georgia school systems have privatized transportation, and those that do have had mixed results, according to a survey conducted by the Richmond County Board of Education.
The survey was prompted by board Vice President Barbara Padgett's call for the creation of a committee to explore privatizing the school system's transportation department as a means of ending long-running disputes between bus drivers and school officials.
Of the 23 school systems surveyed, only three had privatized transportation, which doesn't provide enough information to make a decision, Mrs. Padgett said. She said there is talk of meeting with a company that provides transportation to school systems in order to get more information.
Savannah-Chatham, Dalton City and Dublin City school systems have privatized transportation, according to the survey. The Savannah-Chatham and Dublin City school systems reported problems with scheduling, but all three said the move saved money. In the past five years, Savannah-Chatham has saved $2 million to $2.5 million.
A.K. Hasan, who serves on the privatization committee, said he will remain objective in reviewing the issue but that it would require an "overwhelming" argument for him to support it.
"My primary contention is that someone will have to show me very, very, very impressive information for us to abdicate our responsibility to transport children," Mr. Hasan said. "I mean it would have to be something extremely impressive, and I just don't see this happening."
Parents entrust their children's safety to the school system, he said.
"That's a responsibility and trust that I hold dear," Mr. Hasan said.
There are many "intangibles" beyond money that must be considered, and privatization would not solve the disputes with bus drivers, he said.
Sallie Thomas, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 239, said the school system's survey shows privatization "isn't all that it's cracked up to be." There's a reason only three of the 23 school systems surveyed have gone this route, she said.
"It tells me that chartering out of buses isn't as great as they think it is," Mrs. Thomas said.
The union has filed a lawsuit against the school system, alleging discrimination against its members.
"I think they're just trying to see if we'll back down," she said.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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