Bus Contractor DCS Says It Welcomes DISD Review

DISD board to consider move that could pave the way for more bus completion

The bus contractor for the Dallas County Independent School District says the district is welcome to consider other bus companies. Dallas County Schools (DCS) says it's ready to prove it is still the best transportation provider for Dallas ISD students.

Dallas ISD's board is set to consider a policy change Wednesday that could pave the way for more competition, after trustees expressed concerns about service and safety at DCS.

In a statement Tuesday, DCS Board President Larry Duncan said, "It's good public policy to look at all options, and we encourage accountability and transparency. We believe DCS will prove itself again as an excellent partner with DISD."

Duncan's statement says DCS has one of the strongest safety records in Texas, adding that every DCS school bus is equipped with seat belts.

But it is unsafe driving by some DCS drivers that has some Dallas ISD board members concerned.

An NBC 5 investigation found hundreds of DCS school bus drivers ran red lights, and DCS used $80,000 of taxpayer money to pay the tickets for them. Drivers were not disciplined until NBC 5 Investigates asked why. DCS then fired 13 drivers and suspended 229 more.

Just last week DCS announced it would put more drivers under closer watch after those drivers received numerous citizen complaints of reckless driving.

Meanwhile, parents have complained about buses making students late for school.

Dallas ISD board members will vote Wednesday on whether to essentially strip DCS of its preferred-provider status.

Right now DCS is the only vendor of any kind mentioned by name in Dallas ISD policy. A policy proposal on the table would strike the Dallas County Schools name from the transportation policy in a largely symbolic move that could pave the way for the district to consider other bus providers.

"This current policy we have is a barrier to competition, and I think that barrier has created bad behavior on the part of a long-time vendor, and I think we need to remove that obstacle to competition," said Dallas ISD Trustee Dustin Marshall, who introduced the proposed policy change.

In an editorial Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News urges Dallas ISD board members to put DCS "on notice" at Wednesday night's meeting, by passing that policy change.

The editorial board writes that the current issues "…will only be solved by finding the right set of carrots and sticks to ensure that (Dallas ISD's) contractor improves sharply."

Tuesday's DCS statement also says "Channel 5 has done reports that are replete with errors and incorrect analysis. It's our job to correct the record and we will do that."

The statement does not detail what DCS alleges is wrong with the reports. NBC 5 continues to stand by its reporting.

In recent days DCS has said it wants to correct the number of bus accidents it reported to the Texas Education Agency.

The official records, which NBC 5 reported, show 405 incidents last year. More recently DCS provided new records revising the number to 345. Now DCS says its staffers should have only reported three cases to the TEA.

The TEA allows bus operations wide discretion on whether or not to report cases where no citation was issued to drivers involved.

In a statement sent to NBC 5 on Dec. 6, DCS spokeswoman Carey Marin said, "After investigation, it appears DCS incorrectly filled in the blanks incorrectly in the yearly reports. They gave more information than required and therefore the numbers were wrong and inflated."

However, the TEA says the official DCS numbers on file with the state will remain and cannot be changed.

For weeks NBC 5 Investigates has asked DCS to release its complete crash records, but so far the agency has not released them in response to an open records request.

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