The Winston-Dillard School Board understands its priorities are inside a classroom, where teachers do their best to connect with students amid shrinking budgets.
That’s why board members are exploring a more cost-effective way to transport students back and forth to school. They know that every penny they save outside the classroom will lessen the need to make further cuts inside the classroom.
Our schools are in the education, not transportation, business.
Earlier this year the Winston-Dillard board decided to explore privatizing its bus service, which is costing more than $800,000 per year to operate with its 13 full-time drivers, three substitute drivers and two assistants needed for the special education buses. One board member said a contracted bus service could save the district as much as $250,000 per year.
Given budget cuts in previous years — which included the layoffs of seven employees (including two teachers) at the beginning of this school year, moving to a four-day school week and closing of an elementary school — we wonder what took the board this long to explore cutting transportation costs.
“With declining enrollment, we’re looking at everything we can,” district Superintendent Kevin Miller told us earlier this month. “It’s just that budgets are what they are and school boards have to do what they can.”
The cuts are understandably not sitting well with the drivers, or the union that supports them. They suspect that even if a private company hires them to drive they aren’t likely to earn the same wages and benefits the district provides under a union contract.
But if we agree that the board’s primary concern is for the students, it would be negligent to not explore anything that might reduce the need to make further cuts inside the classroom. There are no more easy cuts to be made in this economy that seems at times to be worsening.
And the board doesn’t have to look far to see examples where privatizing a school bus system has saved money. The Yoncalla School District sold its bus fleet to a bus company three years ago to save money, and district officials say they couldn’t be happier with the result.
A spokesman for Durham School Services, which handles transportation for students within the Roseburg School District, said privatizing makes sense because it, “takes the headache away from a school district so they can focus on education.”
We agree and we encourage Winston-Dillard School District trustees to continue to explore this and any other cost savings that will keep the teachers working to educate our children.