A Texas state lawmaker says it's time to hold Dallas County Schools accountable.
State Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, filed a bill Thursday that would put the fate of DCS, the financially troubled school bus agency, back in the hands of local taxpayers.
The bill is the first of two proposals expected in the legislature that could ultimately shut down the agency, which serves as the bus contractor for the Aledo, Carrollton/Farmers Branch, Cedar Hill, Coppell, DeSoto, Dallas, Highland Park, Irving, Lancaster, Richardson, Weatherford and White Settlement independent school districts.
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Burkett's bill would strip DCS of its ability to tax people in Dallas County. Then it would be up to local school districts to decide if they want to partner with DCS for bus service.
If fewer than 75 percent of students in Dallas County end up receiving services from DCS the agency would be dissolved. A committee would take over running the agency until it's shut down.
Burkett represents taxpayers in communities like Sunnyvale, Mesquite and Rowlett, where right now people pay taxes to DCS but those school districts do not use DCS. They have their own buses. She hopes the bill will force DCS to improve and attract more communities or go away.
For months, NBC 5 Investigates has reported on safety lapses at DCS, including hundreds of bus drivers running red lights. Now the agency is mired in debt and danger of running out of money.
"DCS, Dallas County Schools, will have to get their services up to par. The market, the free market, does a lot to make sure that good services are provided, because if you don't get what you want, don't get what you pay for, you simply go look for it elsewhere," said Burkett.
A public relations firm hired by DCS responded Thursday, saying, "We haven't had a chance to thoroughly vet the bill, but it's a dangerous, slippery slope to propose cities and citizens can opt out of taxes they don't like throughout the state."
"We have an exemplary safety record," the statement continued. "Local taxpayers are fortunate this agency exists, because we do our job well and it saves millions of dollars for local school districts."
In response, Burkett released the following statement Thursday evening:
"With all due respect, we've already hit the slippery slope. It started with poor decision making at DCS and led us to a nearly insolvent entity that has been terribly mismanaged. HB 2329 simply empowers local districts to control the current debt spiral at DCS."
Meanwhile in the Texas Senate, State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, has also said he plans to introduce legislation that would shut down DCS, phasing the agency out over time.