Thursday, December 14, 2023

School district delays decision on privatization of buses

Members of the Wayne-Westland Community Schools Board of Education have issued a statement postponing a proposal to privatize transportation services in the district. A vote on the proposal was scheduled for the Dec. 18 meeting of the board members.

Since a $17 million budget deficit was discovered by auditors last month, 39 part- and full-time employees have been laid off, effective in January. In an attempt to maintain staffing levels, and “right-size” district financing, some jobs have been reclassified, officials said, to qualify for grant funding.

The deficit is so severe, the State of Michigan could step in and take control of the schools in an attempt to control day-to-day operation of the district which currently has about 1,600 employees charged with educating 9,800 students. 

The suggested privatization of transportation systems caused a public outcry from parents and union leaders. In a letter to parents Dec. 7, administrators said the district would attempt to reach an agreement with Michigan Education Association Local 4 prior to moving to privatize the bus system in the district. Local 4 represents the bus drivers and other part-time employees including custodians, student monitors and food service workers. The current contract with the district is effective until June 2025.

Union leaders have publicly expressed concern about the proposed layoffs and labeled the privatization plan a violation of the union contract and an unfair labor practice. In the Dec. 7 letter, the district praises the efforts of the union to “collaborate to identify ways to control costs and increase consistency.” The letter did, however, reference the receipt of multiple bids from outside school transportation providers.