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Dallas School District Supports Sen. Don Huffines' Bill To End Its Bus System

Bill Zeeble
Dallas County Schools operates buses for a dozen school districts in North Texas. Senator Don Huffines wants to end it, and has filed a bill that would do that.

State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, wants to shut down an agency called Dallas County Schools. It provides bus service to several North Texas school districts, including Dallas ISD, which favors the senator’s plans.

Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told the State Senate Education Committee that his district — the state’s second largest — provides about 60 percent of the business for Dallas County Schools. He’s disappointed in its operations, and its ballooning costs. He explained his support for Senate Bill 1122, which would dissolve the bus provider.

“Our ridership has gone from approximately 51,000 in 2012 to 28,000, current year,” Hinojosa said. “Cost per student has gone from $800 to $1,600 in those same years. Routes have gone from 700 to 1,000.” 

Huffines calls Dallas County Schools a rogue bureaucracy that costs too much, provides too little and has been poorly managed. The Dallas Republican says the agency also poses a danger to kids.

“DCS buses are chronically late dropping off students at school, and obviously causing students to miss their breakfast and class time,” Huffines told the Senate Education Committee Tuesday. “Bus drivers received hundreds of red light tickets, putting children’s lives at risk and costing tax payers in Dallas county $80,000 in traffic fines.”

Other State Senate committee members weighed in, with several supporting Huffines’ plan.

Bill will create 'immediate chaos' for districts 

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, does not support the legislation. School districts he represents, like Lancaster and Cedar Hill, use and need DCS buses. But he welcomed the recent leadership change because confidence needed to be restored in Dallas County Schools. Its superintendent was recently forced into early retirement.

Acting Superintendent Leatha Mullins defended the 2,200 person operation that serves 12 North Texas school districts.

“Abolishing DCS will have a dramatic and negative impact on school children, taxpayers and the leadership of the local school districts,” Mullins said. “We transport 76,000 students safely every day. Senate Bill 1122 will create immediate chaos for districts because DCS provides all the vehicles’ operations, maintenance and technologies for these ISD’s.”

Dallas school board member Edwin Flores says his district would be better off without DCS. He calls the agency a monopoly and an unaccountable bureaucracy gone wild.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.