School Bus Transportation Procurement A "Mess" In Ontario - Student Safety Taking A Back Seat?
In a news release issued by OSBA on Jan. 5/15 to approximately 900 media outlets, it was noted that if the Ministry of Education does not soon step in and take much needed action to advise school boards on how to appropriately purchase and maintain student transportation services, these services may have to be cut, parents may have to pay for their kids to take the school bus, or be left with less safe alternatives for getting their kids to and from school.
Seven years ago the Ontario government decided that school bus transportation would be included in the Government of Ontario’s Broader Public Sector Accountability Act (BPSAA). School bus services would be acquired through a competitive procurement process (or “RFP” - Request for Proposals), instead of the historical negotiation process, in order to be fully and rightfully accountable to the taxpayers of Ontario.
OSBA continues to support a fair purchasing process, however, countless delays and uncertainty in reviewing and revamping the process from its initial development, are causing numerous, tentative, ill-advised, ad-hoc practices which are being executed by school boards and their affiliated transportation consortia due to the ambiguity of an impartial procurement process.
Lawsuits against the Ontario government and school boards have frozen contract rates and negotiations to a point that risks the impeccable safety record of the industry. This has already caused an exodus of qualified, caring drivers and support staff to higher paying jobs in other industries and could result in service cuts and more parents having to arrange and pay for private school busing.
This is a matter of preserving an important service upon which Ontario families depend. It is about maintaining school bus vehicles and service at an appropriate level to ensure secure, on-time transportation for all kids. It is not about large or small bus companies, local or multi-national corporations. This is about ensuring appropriate procurement and funding processes for school busing in Ontario.
Members, the public and media are strongly encouraged to contact local school board trustees and MPP’s, urging them to reach out to the Ministry of Education for action – to confirm a fair procurement process and sufficient funding for all student transportation in Ontario.