Category Archives: School.Bus

Unit 5 gives First Student until Nov. 1 to fix bus problems

Source: Derek Breigh & Kevin Barlow, Pantagraph, September 29, 2016

First Student has until Nov. 1 to sort out McLean County Unit 5’s busing problems or face termination of its contract with the Normal-based school district. That contract says Unit 5 has until Oct. 1 to tell First Student it will end the contract June 30, but school board members sent an ultimatum after press time Wednesday: push the notice until Nov. 1, or the option will be used now. … The board voted 6-1, with Joe Cleary voting “no,” to extend the termination notice deadline. The board then voted unanimously that a notice be issued immediately if First Student does not accept the Nov. 1 date. Cleary moved to issue a termination notice immediately, but the motion died when no one seconded it. First Student asked Wednesday for a Dec. 1 deadline. Officials appeared before the board with a detailed plan to correct issues with late and missing buses that started after the district reorganized its routes this fall to cut costs. … One of the major components to the plan, he said, was reaching an agreement with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which was in the process of negotiating its first contract for bus drivers and monitors with Unit 5 when the district opted to hire First Student. …


Unit 5 settles with former bus employees
Source: Derek Beigh,, July 9, 2015

McLean County Unit 5 closed a controversial chapter in its history Wednesday — but for many former employees, the fight continues. The Normal-based school district’s board voted Wednesday to pay $28,000 to former employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. The move ends a series of bitter disputes starting when Unit 5 chose to outsource bus service in 2012 while bus drivers and monitors were negotiating their first union contract with the district….

Unit 5 approves new bus contract
Source: Derek Beigh,, May 22, 2015

McLean County Unit 5 officials hope to have better communication, more timely service and up-to-the-minute tracking under a new bus contract. Cincinnati-based First Student Inc. will receive $7.4 million to provide bus service to Unit 5 from fall 2015 to spring 2018, with an option for a two-year extension by mutual agreement…..The contract, approved Wednesday night by the Unit 5 board of education, is the first since the Illinois Supreme Court, in a denial of an appeal of earlier court decisions, said Unit 5 did not act in bad faith when deciding to hire First Student rather than keep using district employees, who then were in the midst of negotiating their first union contract as members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees….

Unit 5 bus union denied appellate rehearing
Source: Maria Nagle,, July 25, 2014

The union representing former bus employees of McLean County Unit 5 will not get a rehearing from an appellate court in its labor dispute with the school district, and it pledged Wednesday to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. In an administrative review requested by the Normal-based school district, the 4th District Appellate Court in June sided with the district in the dispute with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. … Unit 5 hired First Student Inc. to take over busing in May 2012. While some drivers and monitors became First Student employees, others remained on the Unit 5 payroll under First Student supervision while their union waged a legal battle against the outsourcing. Following the appellate court’s decision in June, the Unit 5 school board voted to dismiss 56 drivers and bus monitors still employed by the district during the legal actions. …

Unit 5 dismisses its remaining school bus drivers and monitors
Source: Maria Nagle,, June 11, 2014

The McLean County Unit 5 school board voted Wednesday to dismiss 56 drivers and bus monitors still employed by the district after its disputed decision to outsource busing services. The passage as an item on the board’s consent agenda without board discussion drew repeated shouts of “Shame on you” from many of the 50 or more transportation workers in the audience. Unit 5 hired First Student Inc. to take over busing in May 2012. While some drivers and monitors became First Student employees, others remained on the Unit 5 payroll under First Student supervision while their union waged a legal battle against the outsourcing….

Unit 5 votes to dismiss transportation employees
Source: Adam Studzinski, WJBC, June 11, 2014

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees members let out cries of “shame on you” during Unit 5’s Board of Education meeting on Wednesday after the board voted to officially dismiss its transportation employees. It’s a move made after last week’s ruling from the 4th District Appellate Court saying Unit 5 can proceed with outsourcing its transportation needs. AFSCME member and Unit 5 bus driver J.B. Johnson said the decision is “shameful.” ….. AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Kent Beauchamp said the school board’s move to dismiss the employees actually isn’t legal.

Union to appeal ruling allowing Unit 5 to outsource busing
Source: Maria Nagle,, June 10, 2014

The union representing McLean County Unit 5 bus drivers and monitors will appeal an appellate court’s decision that allows the school district to continue to outsource its transportation services. At the request of Unit 5, the 4th District Appellate Court reviewed an administrative law judge’s opinion, filed last year with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, that called on the school district to negotiate a union contract with the workers and cancel its busing contract with Cincinnati-based First Student Inc. But the court ruled last week that Unit 5 did not violate the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, so the earlier order was erroneous and must be set aside. In response, American Federation of of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 will ask the appellate court for another review, and “we will be appealing to the Illinois Supreme Court as well,” Renee Nestler, a union representative, said Monday. …

Court upholds Unit 5 bus contract
Source: Eric Stock, WJBC, June 7, 2014

Unit 5 has won a legal battle over its move to outsource transportation services. The 4th District Appellate Court has reversed an earlier decision by the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board to force the district to cancel its contract with First Student and renegotiate a deal with its transportation union. The court ruled this week the district had bargained in good faith with its bus drivers and monitors. In 2012, Unit 5 signed a contract with First Student after the district’s transportation workers had unionized. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees had argued that move was done in retaliation for unionizing. The appellate court noted that AFSCME was given notice that the district would see a third-party contract and that the unions would be able to submit a counter-proposal.

Appellate court upholds Unit 5’s contract to outsource bus services
Source: Maria Nagle,, June 6, 2014

An appeals court has reversed an earlier decision that ordered McLean County Unit 5 school district to cancel its bus outsourcing contract and resume negotiations with its transportation staff’s union. The 4th District Appellate Court, in an opinion filed Thursday, said evidence indicates Unit 5 bargained in good faith and did not engage in unfair labor practices with its bus drivers and monitors….

Unit 5 still sees bumps in road for bus system
Source: Phyllis Coulter,, October 15, 2013

McLean County Unit 5 has made progress fixing busing problems from the start of the school year, but lingering issues mean there still may be bumpy roads ahead. The Normal-based district buses about 10,000 students a day along 600 routes in and around the Twin Cities, Carlock, Hudson and Towanda. On top of managing those logistics, the district, which decided to outsource its busing last year, remains locked in a legal battle with the union that represents its drivers and monitors….A First Student routing specialist from Montana assisted Unit 5 this year in fine-tuning routes and establishing a new service for elementary school band students attending practice at junior high schools, said Jim Stonecipher, First Student location manager. Computer-plotted routes may not have matched the reality of student needs and traffic patterns, so adjustments had to be made manually….

Unit 5 OKs budget, calls balancing it no easy feat
Source: Phyllis Coulter,, September 25, 2013

…In other business, an official of the union representing about 120 bus drivers and 50 bus monitors asked the district to bargain in good faith for a contract and drop the outsourcing approved last year. The reasons given for hiring Cincinnati-based First Student Inc. are not valid, said Ken Beauchamp, regional director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. About 15 bus drivers present at the meeting applauded his remarks. Beauchamp said the district had predicted it would save $1.3 million over three years, but that is not the case. An addendum paying First Student an additional $125,000 plus about $100,000 for attendance bonuses to drivers and monitors were added, he said….The Illinois Education Labor Relations Board last year ruled in favor of AFSCME, calling for Unit 5 to rescind its decision to outsource busing. Beauchamp called for the district to follow that decision….

Unit 5 transportation unfair labor practice hearing begins in Springfield

Source: Kevin Barlow,, August 21, 2012

Judge Rules in Union’s Favor, Unit Five Bus Drivers Temporarily Protected
Source: Kim Behrens,, July 18, 2012

Judge: Unit 5 can’t outsource buses this fall
Related Ryan Denham, WJBC, July 18, 2012

Unit 5: Bus injunction would be ‘catastrophic’
Source: Ryan Denham, WJBC, July 17, 2012

Unit 5 bus service workers are given termination notice
Source: Chad Weber,, July 11, 2012

Unit 5 busing contractor may have to deal with union
Source: Phyllis Coulter,, June 7, 2012

Unit 5 outsources bus system, eyes $1.5M savings
Source: Ryan Denham, WJBC, June 5, 2012

Final vote on Unit 5 busing comes tonight
Source: Ryan Denham, WJBC, June 5, 2012

Unit 5, bus drivers union to meet as outsourcing decision looms
Source: Phyllis Coulter,, June 1, 2012

Two Bids Accepted for Unit Five Bus Services
Source: Jacob Long, WMBD/WYZZ-TV, April 2, 2012

Two companies want to take over bus services for McLean County’s Unit Five School District. Proposals were unveiled Monday from Ohio-based First Student and Illinois-based Durham School Services. …. The district expects a contract to be finalized by May. It would be for three years, with the option for two. Unit Five would still own the buses and equipment, and would still be required to pay for capital improvements.

Survey: Most Michigan Schools Outsource Noninstructional Services

Source: Derek Daplin, Michigan Capital Confidential, August 25, 2016

Farmington Public Schools is expected to save $1.4 million this year after privatizing its custodial services for the first time. The district is one of several public school districts that have recently turned to privatizing noninstructional services, joining others that have used the practice for years. Farmington estimates the district will save $4.2 million over three years because of the move. The district reported its findings to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for its “Michigan School Privatization Survey 2016.” … In recent years, public school districts in Michigan have increasingly contracted out at least one of three noninstructional services covered by the report — food, custodial, or transportation. Over 70 percent of districts in the state have contracted out for at least one the three services in the last year, a slight increase from 69.7 percent in 2015. A private vendor is now used in 379 of 541 districts in the state for at least one of the three services. In 2001, the first year the survey was conducted, only 31 percent of districts used private contracts for one or more of these services. … The survey was based on telephone interviews with districts, which were conducted between May 11 and June 30, 2016. The Mackinac Center submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to districts that asked for them, the study says. The Center has had a perfect response rate on the survey since 2005. The survey also probed for districts’ satisfaction with their private contractors. Nearly all districts, or 89 percent, said they were satisfied. Less than 3 percent were unsatisfied. … The districts that privatized custodial services this year include Farmington Public Schools, Clawson Public Schools and North Huron Schools. Districts with newly privatized food services are the Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw School District, Carson City-Crystal Area Schools and Ellsworth Community Schools. Districts with newly privatized transportation services are East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Montrose Community Schools, and Mid Peninsula School District. …

Read full report.


Number of Michigan Schools Privatizing Services Grows to 70 Percent
Source: James M. Hohman and Jonathan Moy, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, August 17, 2015

There are more Michigan public schools contracting out food, custodial or transportation services than ever, according to the Mackinac Center’s latest survey of school districts. This year, 70.8 percent of school districts use private-sector vendors to clean buildings, get kids to school, or cook and serve school meals. This is up from 66.6 percent the previous year. … The biggest change has been in custodial services. Our 2003 survey found only 34 districts contracted out this service. In 2015, 283 of Michigan’s 542 districts contracted out these services. School food services are highly-regulated enterprises and the federal government subsidizes meals for many children. There are a few companies that have specialized in helping districts provide this service. In 2003, 27.3 percent of districts contracted out these services. This proportion increased to 42.8 percent in 2015. … There is a growing number of school districts that use private-sector contractors to bus students to and from schools. There were 18 districts that began new transportation contracts between the 2014 survey and the 2015 survey and now 144 of Michigan’s 542 districts (26.6 percent) contract out this service.

2014 Michigan School Privatization Survey
Source: James M. Hohman and Zachary Woodman, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, ISBN: 978-1-890624-37-8, 2014

From the summary:
The growth of school support service privatization has slowed. The 2014 survey shows that the percentage of school districts that contract out for food, custodial or transportation services increased just 0.4 percentage points, the smallest growth recorded since the survey began. Each service, however, increased and satisfaction with contracting remains high.

2014 Survey Results
Food Service
Custodial Services
Appendix A: Revisions to Previous Publications
Appendix B: Map of Survey Findings by School District

Illinois Districts Renew Contract with First Student

Source: School Bus Fleet, June 24, 2016

The Rockton School Consortium recently awarded First Student a two-year contract extension to operate and manage a fleet of more than 80 vehicles that serve 14 schools. The consortium is comprised of six school districts and serves more than 7,500 students, according to First Student. The districts that comprise the consortium include:
•    Rockton School District 140
•    Kinnikinnick Community Consolidated School District #131
•    Hononegah Community School District 207
•    South Beloit Community Unit School District 320
•    Prairie Hill School District #133
•    Shirland Community Consolidated School District 134

… First Student has operated in Illinois for more than 70 years, and has nearly 140 school district contracts in the state.

DC student left alone on school bus for over an hour before being discovered

Source: Tisha Lewis, Fox 5 DC, June 20, 2016

It is any parent’s worst nightmare. You think your child is at school only to receive a phone call saying they are not. Then you find out your little one was left on a school bus – a bus that reportedly had a bus driver and an adult attendant on board. Yet somehow, they both missed the mark. “I thought I was going to die, and at first, I thought it was a dream but it wasn’t,” said 7-year-old Antonio Grinage. … His mother, Arnise Grinage, said she received a phone call more than three hours later saying Antonio was left on the bus and had just arrived to school. A Good Samaritan walked Antonio to the Children’s Guild DC Public Charter School after he woke up startled inside the bus. … Arnise Grinage said this is not the first incident she has had with Antonio’s bus driver. She said on Friday, the bus came almost 30 minutes early to pick Antonio up. …

Lansing School District privatizes custodial, maintenance jobs

Source: RJ Wolcott, Lansing State Journal, June 17, 2016

The Lansing Board of Education voted Thursday night to privatize more than 100 custodial and maintenance jobs within the Lansing School District. The 7-1 vote was taken 10 months after SodexoMAGIC was initially recommended by the district’s administration. Trustee Guillermo Lopez cast the lone vote in opposition. Approximately 109 district employees are affected by the privatization of custodial and other facilities-related jobs, said Lucy Rensberry, chair of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council Local 1390. … The district will begin negotiations with SodexoMAGIC, a partnership between Sodexo Inc. and the Earvin “Magic” Johnson-owned Magic Johnson Enterprises next week, said Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul. The district has a three-tiered plan it will present to SodexoMAGIC on how to keep employees within three years of reaching their pension thresholds under the district’s payroll until they hit their milestones. … SodexoMAGIC promised a litany of benefits in its proposal, including giving $1 million toward 21st-century classrooms as well as $60,000 in grants and summer internships for students. The company also vowed to hire all existing staff at their previous salaries and seniority levels and spend $750,000 on updated equipment and vehicles. …


Privatizing custodians in Lansing schools up for vote Thursday
Source: RJ Wolcott, Lansing State Journal, June 14, 2016

Whether to privatize about 115 custodial and other facilities jobs in the Lansing School District is expected to be decided by the Lansing Board of Education on Thursday. It’s the second time in 10 months board members have been asked by the administration to approve SodexoMAGIC as the district’s facilities management company. … SodexoMAGIC was the highest bidder among those who provided cost estimates, but promised a litany of additional benefits. … SodexoMAGIC also promised to hire all current facilities staff while maintaining wages and seniority. It vowed to invest $750,000 toward improving facilities, including adding staff as well as updated equipment and vehicles. The move would allow the district to focus on education, removing the burden of hiring and training facilities staff, Spadafore added. Current district employees hired by SodexoMAGIC would lose their ability to contribute to the state pension system, a point of contention among staff, according to Dan Hamilton, staff representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25. …

No vote taken on Lansing school’s privatization plan
Source: RJ Wolcott, Lansing State Journal, June 2, 2016

After spending more than 30 minutes discussing the possibility of privatizing custodial and other facilities services within the Lansing School District, Board of Education members chose not to vote on the issue Thursday evening. Several board members cited concerns about the administration’s recommendation to award a facilities management contract to SodexoMAGIC, including how third-party staff would be integrated into schools and what efforts would be made to accommodate current union staff approaching retirement. … The company promised to hire all current facilities staff, roughly 115 employees, and maintain their wages and seniority, and pay $750,000 toward improving infrastructure within the district as well as addition staffing, equipment and vehicles. Custodians and other facilities staff would lose access to state-sponsored pensions if they became SodexoMAGIC employees, according to Dan Hamilton, staff representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25. Several staff members have nearly reached retirement age or their 30-year pension thresholds, and he hopes the district can work with the union to find a way to keep those employees under the district’s banners until they reach their milestones. …
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School sends Uber to pick up special needs student

Source: WHDH, May 19, 2016

Nicole Williams said her 13-year-old daughter Arianna was supposed to start school Thursday at The Boston Center in Allston, a school that helps students with emotional and behavioral issues. Williams said a school bus was supposed to come and bring Arianna to school. Not only did the ride arrive late, Williams said the school sent an Uber to pick up her daughter. Williams said she was “disgusted” and did not let the driver take Arianna. … Williams drives a school van for a living. She said the background checks for school bus drivers and Uber drivers are different and that you have to be 18 years old to use Uber. In a statement, The Boston Center said that their transportation company sent an Uber due to a lack of available drivers. The school said this is not acceptable and if this happens again, they will not use the company anymore. …

School bus driver on leave after driving with man hanging on mirror

Source: John R. Ellemont, Boston Globe, April 1, 2016

The driver of a Boston school bus is on paid leave after being captured on cellphone video Thursday afternoon driving with a man hanging onto his passenger-side mirror while children were on the bus. The driver worked for a contractor, Transdev, which runs the district’s bus system, the Boston Public Schools said. The driver’s decision to drive forward with the man on the mirror is under investigation by police and the School Department, officials said. …

Suffolk looks at privatizing school bus operations

Source: Mike Connors, The Virginian-Pilot, September 21, 2015

Buses have caused many a headache in city schools the past few years, making some students late to class. Maintaining enough drivers has been hard, with some complaining about pay. School Board member David Mitnick thinks he has a possible solution: outsourcing the division’s transportation department. … According to an article this spring in School Bus Fleet magazine, which covers national school transportation topics, an estimated 35 percent of buses nationwide were contractor-owned in 2012-13. That was up from barely 25 percent five years earlier. … Board member Linda Bouchard said she favors any kind of outsourcing that is fiscally sound and does not interfere with students’ ability to learn. She noted that Suffolk faces unique busing issues because of its size and wide variety of landscapes, from urban to rural. … Board member Judith Brooks-Buck disagrees. She said that when she was principal of a school in Alabama a few decades ago, busing was outsourced. Problems still popped up, she said. She also said Suffolk has loyal drivers, and she wouldn’t want to diminish them in any way.

In a bankrupt Pa. school district, teachers plan to work for free

Source: Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post, August 28, 2015

Employees of the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania will show up for work on the first day of school next Wednesday, but they don’t expect to get paid. The district, which has been struggling with financial and academic problems for decades, is on the edge of insolvency and cannot make payroll, state and local officials have said. So on Thursday, about 200 members of the local teachers union voted unanimously to work without pay as the new school year opens. They were joined by secretaries, school bus drivers, janitors and administrators. … Chester Upland is facing a $22 million deficit that could grow to more than $46 million without major intervention, Sheridan said. He blamed several factors: local mismanagement, state cuts in education spending under the previous governor and a state law that requires traditional school districts to pay charter schools significant amounts for students who live within their boundaries but attend charters. Public charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, have been growing to the point that they educate nearly half the students who live in the Chester Upland district. Chester Upland pays local charter schools about $64 million in tuition payments — more than it receives in state school aid.

Bus drivers cleaning Wichita schools in pilot program

Source: Suzanne Perez Tobias, The Wichita Eagle, September 13, 2015

The Wichita district is using bus drivers as part-time custodians at more than a dozen elementary schools as part of a pilot program aimed at keeping schools clean and holding down costs, officials said. Darren Muci, director of operations for Wichita schools, said the district plans to contract with First Student this semester to provide workers to clean cafeterias over the lunch period at 16 schools. … Wichita school board members on Monday will consider a contract with First Student for temporary cafeteria workers for the remainder of the fall semester. The district would pay $15 an hour per worker, according to the proposal – $45,000 or less for all 16 schools. … Several schools switched custodians to later shifts to clean classrooms, hallways and common areas at the end of the school day, Muci said. That left the schools needing extra help at lunchtime, but there weren’t enough funds to hire additional custodians, he said. Custodians, who are district employees, receive pay and benefits under the district’s contract with the Service Employees International Union Local 513.