GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - After one member asked to switch his vote, a school board finance committee in Grand Rapids Public Schools recommended against extending the district's contract with a private bus company, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Calling it a surprise decision, The Press reported that Superintendent Bernard Taylor now is urging the full board to overturn the committee decision when the board meets April 19, saying Dean Transportation has saved the district more than $19 million over the past five years.

The district's contract with Dean expires June 30, The Press reported. School officials said the district predicted savings of $18.3 million when it privatized busing in 2005, but the actual figure is $19.7 million, according to The Press. Both figures include $5.5 million from the one-time sale of school buses to Dean.

During the finance committee meeting, members Tony Baker and Jane Gietzen initially voted in favor of a five-year contract extension, after which the Rev. Kenneth Hoskins voted against, The Press reported. After Hoskins said that he was philosophically opposed to privatization of public school services, Baker asked to switch his vote, according to The Press.

Baker was not on the board when the district outsourced transportation, and said he was not aware that the buses had been sold, according to The Press. The quality and cost of Dean's service were not discussed by committee members, The Press reported.

At this point, the full board could overturn the committee recommendation, offer the bus contract to a different company, discontinue all but mandated transportation, or return to an in-house program, The Press reported.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Unusual voting process leads to Grand Rapids school committee's recommendation," March 29, 2010

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Savings From Privatization," Jan. 16, 2009

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