Education

Taken for a Ride: ‘We Got That Message,’ Ed Board Chairman Says

·By Katherine Poythress

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series on Hawaii’s runaway school bus costs. Read other articles in the series.

Continuing to increase school bus fares and ask legislators for more money is not going to solve the problem of runaway school bus costs, Board of Education Chairman Don Horner says.

Civil Beat asked Horner to talk about what state education officials should be doing to control rapidly rising school transportation costs, serious financial issues that have been documented in Civil Beat‘s investigative series, Taken for a Ride.

Civil Beat analyzed hundreds of school transportation records going back over the last 11 years and found that bus companies abruptly stopped bidding against each other four years ago. The lack of competition has contributed to skyrocketing transportation costs. School district officials and board members have done little to keep the bus companies in check, instead raising prices for families whose kids ride the bus and shifting money from other education programs to pay contractors’ prices.

Horner and eight others were appointed to an all-new board in April by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The old board, which had been made up of elected members, was abolished by voters last year.

Horner said in a brief interview following Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting that he was well aware of rising transportation costs even in his short time on the board.

In May, just a month after Horner took over, the Legislature zeroed out the department’s transportation budget for next year — except for special education transportation — until school

Discussion

What should the Board of Education be doing about rising school bus costs?