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District looking to outsource all transportation services

By Benjamin Herold on May 23, 2012 05:03 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks
 

As part of its effort to slash costs and dramatically reduce its central office, the District is considering outsourcing its entire transportation department for the upcoming school year.

"[The] School District is evaluating the option to further privatize its yellow school bus transportation," according to a Request for Proposals issued this month. Responses are due May 29.

"The successful Proposer shall assume all management responsibility for the School District's Transportation Division," says the "Statement of Work" on page three of the document. 

The move could lead to changes in who provides bus service to almost 36,000 children, including disabled students. The District now operates 417 District bus routes, all of which would be turned over to private management. Over 800 routes are already contracted to outside vendors.

Besides bus service and management, the RFP would affect cab service for students, athletic and special events transportation, and extended school year transportation. It could also mean changes in who administers disbursement of SEPTA student TransPasses and the District's internal PONY Express mail system.

Gabe Morgan, the Pennsylvania director of District 1201 of SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents bus drivers and other blue-collar school workers, said that his union is still in talks with the District about reducing costs for transportation and other services without wholesale outsourcing.

"We have offered concessions that amount to thousands per member to try to keep the schools running," he said.

District Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen has said that he needs to save $50 million in costs for school maintenance and transportation, and the District has issued layoff notices to all of 32BJ's members to take effect by the end of this calendar year.

"In Pennsylvania, folks like bus drivers and Tom Knudsen are being put in no-win situations because the state government is de-funding public education and forcing everyone at the local level to deal with the problem," said Morgan, who was one of 14 people arrested at a large rally held by the union Wednesday to protest layoffs and privatization of their positions.

"It's a terrible thing to take a hardworking bus driver or school custodian and say to them, 'We are going to toss you out or turn your job into a minimum-wage job with no benefits or end your pension even if you've been contributing to it,'" said Morgan.

The District has issued a statement regarding 32BJ that the two sides are engaged "in good faith efforts to come to an agreement on changes that will result in savings necessary to continue to support educational programs in schools."

Putting out an RFP does not mean that outsourcing is a foregone conclusion, but it is another step in preparing for the possibility.

"Proposers must manage all of these functions of the current School District transportation division, as well as any functions that may develop or adapt as a result of potential further privatization of operations and investment in automated routing software," according to the RFP.

As part of the effort, the District wants to modernize its transportation services by  investing in automated routing software. New bus contractors could be required to retrofit their fleets with GPS devices.

Additional reporting by Notebook contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa.

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Comments (23)

Submitted by Helen Gym on May 23, 2012 5:04 pm

And this is why thousands rallied today in Philadelphia. There's no contract for bus drivers, but plenty of contracts to go around for the BCGs of this world.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 6:25 pm

My school has one of the already privatized bus services.

It is a nightmare. Parents complain about it constantly, kids miss school because nobody picks them up, buses are constantly late, there is a rotating cast of drivers and aides. The drivers sometimes won't pick up kids who they think misbehave, even though our principal ALWAYS suspends students from the bus when an incident occurs and is reported properly. Our students have behavioral issues, and unfortunately sometimes throw things out of the windows. The bus drivers will allow strangers on the street to get onto the buses and yell at (or who knows what else) the children.

So yeah, let's turn all transportation over to them.

They keep trying to sell this lie that competition makes the better service win, that it isn't valid to have one public entity. But time and time again, we see that privatization is cheaper but worse, and they always go for cheaper.

I guess they don't care what it really costs.

Submitted by Howard T. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 6:57 pm

What school is this?? I don't believe any Phila. School currently has a privatized bus force. Maybe, I'm wrong. In any case, this is a microcosm of what they want to do----destroy the Middle Class by ending unions and WE need to stop it. The churches are leading the way but LABOR has been very quiet overall. Are the labor so called leaders like Jerry Jordan, complicit ?? They and We must do more and "By any means necessary" or we're all dead meat. They'll gladly turn the clock back 125 years IF we let them. You know the good, old times when corporations bullied and abused the workers in unspeakable ways. WAKE UP !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 7:22 pm

More schools have privatized buses than not. There are a few companies; Durham, Atlantic Express, I don't know the others.

A cursory glance at the district's own website shows that 700+ bus routes are contracted out. http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/t/transportation/transportation-fa...

They've been at this awhile. We just didn't notice.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on May 23, 2012 7:27 pm

From the RFP:

"The School District currently operates 417 to- and from- school bus routes, approximately 50 mid-day and approximately 30 athletic trips daily out of its four garage facilities...The School District has contracted its remaining routes among twelve (12) bus vendors (827 total routes), 3 cab vendors (115 total routes), and 9 vendors independently contracted by certain schools (56 total routes)."

 

Submitted by Howard T. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 7:54 pm

I simply didn't know that---Why is the UNION allowing this s tuff??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 8:10 pm

What choice do they have? They don't have a governor or legislature who will back them up. City hall won't back them up with money and they'd rather see costs cut in transportation then in the classroom.

Submitted by Howard T. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 8:26 pm

Be very careful--google "First They Came." This is NOT about money. It's all about power and our only power is our power of numbers. There's plenty of money for "consultants" and prisons. Doesn't that strike you as odd and telling ??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 8:55 pm

I don't need to google a poem about the progression of people Nazis attacked. I believe in public education. I plan to fight for it. I do not think this deserves comparison to the Holocaust.

Submitted by Howard T. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 9:34 pm

Hey Skippy---Don't be so sure of yourself. Once Public Ed. is gone, our democracy is not far behind. They love people like you, too dumb to see their motives and too cocky to look. Do yourself a favor and open both eyes. Intolerance and bigotry are everywhere through human history. Unspeakable things have occurred by people just like us.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 24, 2012 12:13 am

No. I am sure that disinvestment in public education in Philly is not comparable to Nazis killing 6 million in the Holocaust. I am sure of that.

You will see that I don't disagree about the need for public education. I understand that profit not education is the motive. I only think it's despicable to compare this to the Holocaust.

Submitted by Howard T. (not verified) on May 24, 2012 7:52 am

Nobody did but the slippery slope is the point. Keep your eyes open to the big picture, Skippy.

Submitted by LeShawna (not verified) on May 23, 2012 9:09 pm

Couldn't agree more. This is my quote on my emails

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 7:04 pm

Great news. Anything the district can do to save money in these times is helpful. After all. the people who are footing the bill for this education system, the taxpayers, are mostly working in private industry now. That means competition, responsibility and accountability. These union bus drivers can go apply for a job at a private bus company.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 7:22 pm

And you can go back to working 7 days a week with no breaks, no vacation or sick pay, and no protections from abuse. If you would like to return to the Industrial Revolution, by all means, keep hating unions and hoping for their destruction.

Submitted by Anonymous 32 (not verified) on May 23, 2012 8:32 pm

There's a big difference between what private bus company people are paid conforming to state labor standards and minimum wage and 7 day work weeks. I don't hate unions and I support all worker's rights to organize but that doesn't mean the employer is going to pay them what they want to be paid. The union's leverage is in negotiating and striking. The District will see if it can replace all of 32BJ for cheaper than the replace it.

Submitted by Howard T. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 7:44 pm

Is this bleat again??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 7:00 pm

I'm tired of these public unions taking money out of my pocket. You're living in a fantasy world if you think unions have any effect on the lives of non union people. But I understand your agenda. Line your pockets as much as possible. Just take a look at how people are paid and treated in the high tech industry, where there are no unions to scare corporations into line. Go bring your unions to their doorstep and the employees will laugh at you. Through stock options, most of the employees are also owners of the companies they work for.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 8:39 pm

Unions exist to provide better wages and negotiated work rules to lower skilled jobs. That's why they exist. They don't exist to provide protection to individual employees who are valuable enough to companies that they have the power to negotiate wages with the company. Unions will not succeed where there is a large mass of equally competent workers willing to work for a lower price unless they have government support. This is why 32BJ is going to have to lower its wages and benefits to be competitive because there are hundreds of people who can provide comparable service for cheaper. Every worker wants to fight for the best wages he can get. That's the fight that's going on.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 9:40 pm

Thanks for stating the obvious. The unions are out to get as much as they can. The problem with public sector unions is that every dime they are able to extract comes from the taxpayers' pocket. We need to outlaw collective bargaining for public employees.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 24, 2012 12:33 am

It wasn't obvious to you. You tried to compare 32BJ to Silicon Valley.

Unions are out to get what they can and the employer needs to negotiate with employees or their duly elected bargaining unit what they pay will be. I fully support the District's efforts to negotiate but the workers have every right to bargain--or to strike if they don't believe they are getting a fair deal. If the District can find replacements then those replacements have every right to unionize and fight for better wages.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 9:02 pm

Who voted for Corbett? I hope you'll thunk before you press the button next time!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 24, 2012 10:46 pm

Corbett got in because so many folks sat on their ass. Of course, Corbett like Walker and the fat guy in New Jersey kept very quiet about their true motives during their campaigns. By the way, Christie looks like he won't make it to 2016. Throw a salad in there once in a while.

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