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Voters Decide To Get Rid Of Troubled Dallas County Schools Bus Service

Bill Zeeble
Bus service won't disappear overnight; Dallas County Schools will continue to provide bus service while a state committee decides next steps.

Opponents of Dallas County Schools have won a battle to dismantle the troubled bus service provider. About 58 percent of voters chose to force the agency to wind down operations.

State Sen. Don Huffines led the effort to dismantle Dallas County Schools. On Tuesday night, that effort paid off.

At an election watch party at an area Blue Mesa restaurant, the Dallas Republican celebrated.

“This a victory for Dallas County, for the parents, the students and the taxpayers of Dallas County,” Huffines told KERA. “To get rid of this unreliable, dangerous, financially corrupt bus agency is a real victory for Dallas County.”

The embattled bus agency has come under fire for a host of problems. They include financial mismanagement, a failed stop-arm camera program, buses running red lights and drivers not getting kids to school on time.

The KERA Radio story.

In response, Huffines and other critics of Dallas County Schools formed a political action committee called Protect Dallas Kids.

And there are several critics of the bus agency, including the superintendent of Dallas ISD and a couple of school board trustees.

The bus agency serves about 75,000 students in Dallas ISD and several other districts. After Tuesday night’s vote, DCS will go through a transition period as its operations eventually wind down – a process that will take some time. In the meantime, Huffines says kids will still be picked up by DCS buses.

“I know change is hard and I’m encouraging everyone that’s working for DCS to continue and help with the transition and everyone to remain calm,” he said.

The state comptroller will set up a dissolution committee. That group will oversee the next steps.

Area school districts that use DCS say they’re researching their options as to how they’ll bus their students to school.

A statement from Dallas County Schools says it's disheartened with the election outcome, and that it will focus on providing bus service through the end of the school year.

What happens next to Dallas County Schools 

Dallas County Schools bus service will continue through the end of the school year.

The process to eliminate DCS will take several months.

The Texas comptroller has formed a dissolution committee to figure out next steps. The committee will include financial experts, like an auditor and a certified public accountant.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa says the group will include representatives from each of the nine school districts served by the bus agency.

“Early in 2018, districts will have to decide whether they’re going to outsource this very important service that we all depend on,” Hinojosa said. “Whether they’re going to develop their own or maybe a hybrid, where a number of the districts go in together in a cooperative arrangement to provide those services for their community.”

The dissolution committee will be in charge of how the bus agency's assets should be divided among the affected school districts. And it will schedule a series of public meetings.

Districts that use DCS buses say they’re researching their options.

In Lancaster ISD, more than 3,600 students ride buses. Sonya Cole-Hamilton is the district’s chief communications officer.

“We recognize that some parents may be concerned, ‘Ok, so how does this affect my child for this year?’” she said. “Bus service will continue throughout the end of this school year, because Dallas County is obligated to continue providing that service.”  

Cole-Hamilton says Lancaster ISD has already received bids from three transportation vendors.

Setting up a new bus service could be costly. She says each vendor would require Lancaster ISD to buy its own fleet of buses. That could cost the district as much as a million dollars more per year than it currently pays for Dallas County Schools bus service.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.