Gilliard bill would put school districts in charge of transportation

Gilliard bill would put school districts in charge of transportation
January 06 13:33 2018 Print This Article

With the goal of modernizing South Carolina’s aging school bus fleet and improving accountability for maintenance, State Representative Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) introduced the SC School Bus Privatization Act (H-4389). More than one fifth of the state’s fleet of more than 5000 buses were built in the 1990s. South Carolina is the only state which operates a statewide school bus fleet.

Gilliard, a long-time advocate for school bus safety, filed the bill in November after a Greenville school bus carrying 29 high school students caught fire. During the first week of 2018, a 23-year-old bus caught fire in Anderson County, fortunately with no students onboard.  Governor Henry McMaster is now under fire for his veto for a $17.5 Million purchase of new school buses before the General Assembly adjourned in June 2017.

To give school districts funding to order new buses and maintain them properly, Gilliard’s bill would include a School Transportation Re-imbursement fund. The South Carolina Bureau of Economic Advisors is working on a funding formula. Gilliard said, “Student safety should be a primary concern for all of us. There will be greater accountability for transportation if individual school districts (or groups of districts) are given the resources directly to operate their bus fleets.” ¬†Charleston County School District already contracts with private bus contractor Durham, which can buy buses at a lower unit cost than the state bus system.

School bus safety has become a major issue in the special election for House District 69. Lexington Republican Alan Ray has featured the Anderson County bus fire on his website. The General Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday.