LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Delaware school bus contractors’ woes ignored

A school administrator published recently an article named “Losing Confidence in Education Leadership” [Public Forum, June 12] that is quite interesting. The text of the article clearly states that the Department of Education is losing touch with the overall needs for education in this state.

Wow, that is the overwhelming feeling that the Delaware school bus contractors are currently enduring with their financial shortfalls that should have been addressed by DOE, but continue to be totally ignored.

Now, June 11 of this year, a school bus contractors meeting was held regarding our financial dilemma, only to hear that the state’s financial forecast was bleak and no additional funding help may be in the future. In the last seven years, the school bus contractors have received little or no financial help (1 percent in 2014), and yet, the cost of operating school buses continues to increase at an alarming rate.

In 1977, the school bus reimbursement formula was enacted, and to date, the formula has been increased by percentages only, with no regard to the overwhelming change in the costs associated with operating and maintaining school buses. The technical operation and maintenance of school buses is far beyond what was originally intended in 1977, as everyone can well understand.

At that period in time, the school bus was gasoline-powered with a manual transmission, and then came the diesel-powered school bus with an automatic transmission, and the future holds propane-powered units as the next marvelous venture.

Today, the school bus contractor is faced with new equipment that is totally computerized; diesel-exhaust fluid additives are now required in order for the school bus to function, drivers’ hours has been extended to meet the route requirement demands; routes are being doubled, and in some cases; tripled, with no additional operation allowance; minimal funding ($74 annually) is in place to finance the cost of the spare bus that is necessary to keep the fleet operational; and finally, route miles are calculated from first pickup stop back to first pickup stop with no consideration given for dead-head miles.

These actual costs to the school bus operation have been totally ignored by DOE, and in addition, new “mandatory” driver training hours are to be added in the future, with the costs being passed on to the local school districts. Now, I wonder how some of the local school districts that are struggling financially will react to this new unfunded mandate.

So, where does the school bus contractor proceed from this point: continue to struggle, or simply say, “Enough is enough,” and turn the bus routes in to the local districts and let them purchase, operate and maintain the yellow bus and pass that actual cost on to the taxpayer?

In 2016, I will have been a school bus contractor for 50 years, and in my wildest imagination, I never expected my life’s endeavor to be as uncertain and frustrating as it is at this present time.

Neil A. Moore
President, D & N Bus Service Inc.
Milford

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