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The School Bus

Abundant everywhere
may soon be gone

Billions of dollars are marked for new security systems at airports and other new homeland security agendas in America. And billions more are marked to fund war against terrorist supporters around the globe. Yet, here in our own nation, children are facing a serious threat to their safety from something as simple as losing their bus ride to and from school.

About the author: James Kraemer often presents unique opinions that can sometimes be in conflict with school bus industry and related government agencies views. The opinions expressed in his commentaries are his own and are not necessarily those of 2safeschools sponsorships or other participants related to 2safeschools school bus safety education activities.

By James Kraemer
©2003, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted with permission from 2safeschools.

One of the greatest school bus transportation services in this country may be headed for the grave.

Oceanside Unified School District (Calif.) is one of the school districts in this country that trained their drivers to manage bus student discipline issues directly with parents, including bus driver direct authority to suspend students from the buses for upto five-days.

Superb bus driver/parent relationships, unmatched administration bus driver support -- the kind of top-notch support school bus drivers and parents in many areas of the country can only fantasize about -- may not be enough to keep the buses running at Oceanside Schools.

The North County Times Newspaper (covers San Diego County and Southwest Riverside County areas) recently reported that Massive California state school funding budget cuts may soon force Oceanside to eliminate student to and from school transportation for their middle and high school students. Athletic and extra-curricular transportation and district payment for special programs transportation are also on the chopping block.

If further reductions are required 'to-and-from' school transportation may be eliminated for Oceanside elementary schools.

Within a few short years Oceanside may go from one of the greatest, most effective and safest public transportation providers in this country, to one driven to extinction by legislative intent, due to no funding for school bus transportation to and from school.

Oceanside also slashed $1,563,000 from School Administrative Support -- incredibly responsible and precisely what taxpayers in many areas of the country have been calling for. Could the State of California and other states learn from Oceanside and slash incredible sums from their bloated administrations at their level?

The school buses provide children the safest transportation to and from school, while cars driven by teens are among the most dangerous. Statistics prove that teens should not be driving their cars to and from school, certainly not with passengers in their cars.

Riding the school bus 'to and from school' remains substantially safer than riding in the family car, riding a bike, even walking to and from school -- upto 2,000 times safer.

Regardless, and to the delight of many teens, a growing number of schools are losing their 'to and from school' bus service. School bus transportation budgets are being slashed around the nation.

Before states and school boards everywhere deliver a final death blow to their school bus service, they should first consider the other, perhaps unexplored, resulting costs of doing such a thing: Are parking lots, new street designs and a standard funeral plan in the works to cover this change?

''The transit industry receives billions of dollars in federal funding each year. We transport more kids each year [than the transit industry], but they're fully funded with our tax dollars,''
--Charlie Gauthier, executive director, The NASDPTS.

Where the service is hanging on by a gutted budget, bus driver background checks, training and the service itself are becoming minimalized, shortcutted and substandardized.

In the desperation for bus drivers, it appears some transportation providers give a lower priority to background checks. Experts in this area of neglect are saying parents must not rely on school bus driver background checks to guarantee their chidrens' safety.

As bus drivers hours are cut what was poor pay is evaporating to near nothing.

In some situations drivers are short-changed for the time involved to actually work their jobs.

In cities across the country there are dramatic differences in pay between school bus drivers and city transit drivers. Even when both transportation providers are the same employer school bus driver pay can be considerably less.

The end result can be no mystery. A continued decay in the interest to drive the school buses and a lower quality service becoming the norm. Poor pay, poor benefits and theft of employee time are invitations to find employment elsewhere.

Not all school officials in this country are in favor of poor pay for school bus drivers. In February (2002) the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin) reported that several Milwaukee School Board members wanted their school bus drivers to pursue establishing union representation:

''The situation right now is very painful to the bus drivers, and what it represents is publicly endorsed exploitation of low-income workers,'' Morales said. ''I do not want to be a party to that.'' -- Board member Jennifer Morales, Milwaukee Public Schools

Continued School bus driver shortages are increasing the demands on our nation's current bus drivers. Too often routes are doubled up, providers are implementing transit schemes and larger groups of kids are transported without the bus driver possessing a clue as to who the kids are. Although that might help improve these drivers pay, can there really be any mystery here as to one reason for the recent increase of missing and lost children on our nation's school buses?

School Bus Fleet, a national school bus related business magazine, recently reported that Charlie Gauthier, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), during a discussion on occupant protection, said that funding is a critical issue.

''The transit industry receives billions of dollars in federal funding each year. We transport more kids each year [than the transit industry], but they're fully funded with our tax dollars.''


908 votes - Rev: 06/07/04
Maltreatment 61%
Poor Pay 30%
Retired/Health 3%
Moved 1%
Other Reasons 5%

The long list of funding issues important to politicians, bureaucrats and educrats virtually excludes much importance placed on school bus transportation.

School bus drivers have virtually no say and no effective collaboration to address funding issues. 'Regular Education' school bus transportation special interests simply do not exist. What remains the last great hope for school bus drivers are the efforts of ordinary parents.

It is ironic that the very source of the greatest concern and support for 'to and from school' transportation funding have been ignored by the school busing industry and by school bus drivers virtually everywhere. Appropriate funding and effective support is not going to come from anywhere but from our nation's parents making the politicians and educrats provide adequate funding for this necessary service.

To restore school busing, to the great service reminisent of the past, requires that school bus drivers return to communicating effectively with the parents on their bus routes today.

For parents to obtain the quality of service, too often taken for granted in the past, they must return to knowing their bus drivers, demand funding appropriate to keep professional bus drivers, insist on pay and benefits adequate to attract quality candidates to the school bus driving profession, and expect funding to cover proper training and support of our nation's fleets.

It is time the school bus industry understood this simple reality and eased up on playing politics with legislators disinterested in funding childrens safety to and from school.

It's time the industry and bus drivers turned to parents for the help they need to restore safe and reliable school bus transportation in America. (jk)

James Kraemer is a veteran school bus driver and founder of 2safeschools.org. He can be reached at [email protected].

Click Here to comment on this story, Subject: School Bus Gone

Free school bus safety photos - Need a photo or graphic for a newsletter, brochure or your Website? You will find plenty of free graphics and ideas at 2safeschools Yellow Tin Can.
Teachers.Net - A national web site for teachers of all disciplines at all grade levels. Provides many resources. Beth Burno writes a regular column at teachers.net called "Schoolhouse Views."
2safeschools Teachers Webring - over 300 teachers nationwide ready to share their web pages. You'll find a nation's worth of ideas for all grade levels in this webring."
SNET's Internet Features Page - An excellent web site for parents and teachers, features articles relevant to the home, school and the community environment.
2safeschools Awards Centre - Does your web page include a safety suggestion, flyer or article. If it does, apply for your personalized 2safeschools "Helping Hand Award." No safety pages or flyers? Link to 2safeschools free templates page or to our directory or other 2safeschools page of your choice, then apply for your award; Directory Link: http://www.delphi.com/2safeschools
More 2safeschools link info
A Mother's Story - What this mom did when the school and therapy failed her out-of-control son. Excellent reading for Parents and School Staff dealing with an out-of-control teen and nothing else has worked.
A Librarianís Story - A 10-year veteran of the King County, (Washington State) Public Library resigned rather than carry out library policy of providing children with pornography.
How to help keep your child's school bus safe - A short article from "In Loving Memory."

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