TULSA PUBLIC SCHOOLS SCHEDULED TO VOTE ON CONTRACT DEAL
WITH PRIVATE TRANSPORTATION VENDOR
TULSA, Okla.—On April 8, Chief Information and Operations Officer Ben Stout made a recommendation to the Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education to enter into a contract deal with a third-party vendor to oversee the transportation department’s management team.
Stout stated to 2NEWS last week that a deal with this Missouri-based vendor, TransPar Group, could reduce unnecessary spending and generate revenue by introducing new bus routes and bell schedules. Additionally, Stout
mentioned that the TPS transportation department currently has 30 open positions for school bus drivers that still need to be filled—a staffing issue that he argues is the reason TPS bus drivers are currently forced to work so
many overtime hours.
TransPar Group would receive $254,000 in a five-year contract deal with Tulsa Public Schools, and Stout predicts that this will produce a return of $133,000 within its first year—money, he reported to 2NEWS, that could be
used to pay the salaries of four new teachers.
AFT 6049 Oklahoma President, Ed McIntosh, sees a few problems with Ben Stout’s revenue predictions, stating, “[Stout] doesn’t explain how he came to these figures, or how four new classroom teachers would improve the efficiency of the Tulsa Public Schools transportation department.”
In July 2005, the bell schedules for TPS students were adjusted after a research study showed a correlation between improved student learning and later school bell times. In the July 18, 2005, TPS Board of Education
agenda, it states that a change in bell times would “align starting times based on scientific research, to provide quality learning experiences for every student, every day, without exception.” The Tulsa Public Schools
leadership team voted 36–6 in favor of changing school bell times, stating “[Scientific research] shows older students do better in school with later start times,” and “[a change in bell schedules] would alleviate problems for
elementary students who are dropped off at schools prior to staff availability.”
Stout told the Tulsa World that a proposed contract deal with TransPar Group would allow them to evaluate the school bell schedule again. “Now TransPar Group could change the school bell schedule, and for what? To line their own pockets,” President McIntosh said on Friday, asking, “What cost will this have for the future of our students?”
In September 2010, a school district in Fort Myers, Fla., retained TransPar Group to conduct a research study on the district’s transportation services. The report listed several of the cost-cutting methods that TransPar Group recommended, including “shifting special needs students to taxis or dial-a-ride services.” President McIntosh is worried that changes like these would have a negative impact on Tulsa’s special needs students, arguing, “Is this something we can expect here in Tulsa in the name of savings? Will our special needs kids be required to hail taxi cabs on the street corner when they want to get to and from school each day?”
President McIntosh argues that TransPar Group can’t provide Tulsa Public Schools with any services that the current transportation department doesn’t already have, stating, “A five-year contract deal is a waste of taxpayer dollars and essential district resources. That money should be used for hiring a complete staff of bus drivers, making necessary repairs to the fleet of school busses that the district has already purchased, and investing in parts and equipment that our mechanics and craftsmen need for their jobs. Using $254,000 on anything else is not only unnecessary, but irresponsible.”
The solution is simple. Tulsa Public Schools could take the $254,000 that they’re ready to give to a private vendor in Missouri and instead use it to pay the salaries of 21 new school bus drivers right here in the Tulsa community. The $133,000 revenue that Stout predicted the TPS Board of Education could use to hire four new classroom teachers should instead be used to pay the salaries of 11 additional bus drivers, filling the 30 job openings. Not only would a contract deal with TransPar Group take essential jobs out of the hands of the Tulsa community, but it would also send our community’s tax dollars out of Oklahoma.
The TransPar Group website displays their slogan, “Cut a Bus, Save a Teacher.” President McIntosh offers a more accurate alternative, arguing, “If they’re being honest, it should say ‘Cut a Bus, Cut a Bus Driver.’”