To the Editor:
The Cranston Herald reports the Cranston School Committee rejected First Student’s offer to privatize city school bus service (“Private bus pact rejected,” Cranston Herald, 12/12/13). It appears committee members were persuaded by the emotional impact this change would have on the workers (and then, of course, there probably were political considerations). In truth, changes to one’s work are very unsettling and one can only empathize with these people. However, when all of the other factors are weighed, it is clear that the wrong decision was made.
One of the critical factors in favor of privatizing bus service is the safety of the students. The city’s fleet of buses is aging and by the committee’s own assessment, it should have been replaced years ago. First Student had indicated a far more rapid introduction of new coaches to safely transport the children. Is there anyone who can give a sensible explanation why the safety of our children was not the overriding reason for accepting the company’s proposal? Yes, overriding!
Privatizing the bus service would have been far more economically responsible in several ways. As much as the public has been made aware, First Student’s offer provided a reduction in overall cost when compared to the present system of in-house service. Then there is the substantial cost in maintaining an aging fleet of buses. It should be obvious to even the most vacuous business novice that maintenance entails a huge expenditure of funds. The next issue is the city’s need to replace its entire fleet of buses as committee members have stated. (Of course, they preferred not to get into that for obvious reasons.) The cost to replace the fleet will be staggering! These factors, as well as the considerable in-house task of running the bus service, can only add to the bewilderment of the people of this city. (When funds are expended imprudently, these lost monies are not available for other worthy educational programs.)
This decision by the School Committee will result in another shock to the struggling taxpayers of the city. Do they imagine the silent taxpaying slobs have money trees in their yards? When city departments sign contracts not knowing the cost; that is a major blunder. This decision on bus service is another.
The state economy is in disastrous condition. In a study recently, the city of Cranston was ranked number eight of all communities in Rhode Island as being in financial peril. The city of Cranston is among the leaders of onerous tax burdens on its residents. Now the questions: Do representatives who serve on school committees, city councils and administrators get this, or are they all in some fantasy land? When one considers the complexity of school committee service, why are there not more stringent qualifications candidates must meet (like an MBA)?