Throughout the general election campaign in South Carolina, then-Rep. Nikki Haley consistently advocated for the privatization of the state’s school bus system, claiming that privatization would save the state money — a favorite Republican talking point in the Palmetto State.
Haley’s general election opponent (full disclosure: my former boss) state Sen. Vincent Sheheen argued that the state should only consider privatizing the fleet if studies were conclusive that doing so would result in savings. (Actually look at some data? Crazy, right?)
Turns out it’s probably not true that the privatizing the school bus system in the state will save the state any money. In fact, some say it might cost more.
An AP article that ran yesterday shared a piece of information that I sure didn’t hear in any Republican stump speeches in 2010. At the urging of Gov. Mark Sanford, the state launched a pilot program with privatized buses in Mt. Pleasant in 2008. The state ended up spending more on those buses than the state would have in-house and had to renegotiate the contract to keep the private company from going under.
In response to Sanford’s push, the state launched a pilot program in 2008 at a school bus shop in Mount Pleasant. The winning contractor underestimated the cost of maintaining the area’s buses, and the state had to renegotiate the contract last year to keep the company from going under, Don Tudor, state’s transportation director, said last month.
The state spent about $780,000 on the 90 buses last fiscal year, or about $200,000 more then the state would’ve spent in-house, he said. He noted the company’s mechanics earn nearly double the hourly rate of state workers.
Another item of note… School districts in the state are already free to outsource their busing, and the two districts in South Carolina that have privatized their bus fleets — Charleston and Beaufort Counties — have seen their drivers join the Teamsters union. (Drivers on the state payroll are prohibited from unionizing.) Given the governor’s appetite for unions, it’s surprising that she’d advocate a new policy that could (and probably will?) result in unionized bus drivers in 46 counties.