School busing is a disaster waiting to happen in Rhode Island.
Pay attention to the budget of a Rhode Island school district for a few cycles, and you’ll learn that there are two companies providing busing, both with unionized workforces. Districts are obligated by law to provide transportation (including mandatory bus monitors), so the lack of competition leaves them with little choice and leaves the public vulnerable to labor action, as Warwick is learning right now:
First Student will be unable to provide transportation services to Warwick students on Friday due to a union labor issue, according to an email from the Warwick School District.
High school busses have already left, but there will be no elementary or middle school bussing, including small buses for special needs students, for the rest of the morning.
Additionally, there will be no afternoon pickup for all students — high school, middle school, elementary, and special needs.
A community can adjust to life with no school buses, but when they’re part of community life, the disruption ripples throughout the entire city or town and its local economy. These are the basic contingencies that we organize governments to manage. Unfortunately, government in Rhode Island has been captured by special interests, and the market tilted in their favor.
When you’ve got a situation in which there are tens of millions of dollars available for a mandatory service and requests for bids to provide that service receive one or responses, a huge competitive need is not being met. In other words, this is an area screaming for reform, but it’s one that Rhode Island’s elected officials do not want to address, and probably couldn’t (politically) if they wanted to.
Featured image by Vahid Moeini Jazani on Unsplash.