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INFORMATIONAL LETTER: # 49

POLICY CODE: EEA

 

 

TO:††††† ††††††††††† Superintendents of Schools and School Board Chairs

 

FROM:††††††††††† J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner

††††††††††† ††††††††††† Jean Gulliver, Chair, State Board of Education

Weston L. Bonney, Chair, Essential Programs & Services Committee of the State Board of Education

 

DATE: ††††††††††† February 21, 2001

 

RE:†††††† †††††††††††Final Report of the Essential Programs & Services Transportation Task Force

 

The Essential Programs and Services Task Force on Transportation, which was commissioned by the 119th Legislature, has presented itís final report to the Joint Committee for Education and Cultural Affairs of the Maine Legislature.A copy of the report is attached for your review and comment.The report contains recommendations for implementing significant changes in the way we design, manage and fund our pupil transportation services in Maine.Reports from each of the other essential program and services task groups will be presented as they are completed in the upcoming months.

 

Having completed the transportation report, the next challenge is to begin developing specific strategies and action steps that will provide the detail necessary to build a process of implementation for the recommendations.This work is currently in process under the leadership of staff members from the Department of Education along with representatives from the State Board of Education, the Maine Educational Policy Research Institute, and the business managers of two school districts.Where possible, the Department expects to implement the recommendations based on the Commissionerís existing authority.It is possible that some of the recommendations will require new legislation to authorize implementation.

 

The report demonstrates the possibility of using the $70 million spent transporting students in a more efficient and equitable manner.With the continuing need for additional education resources, it is vital that the existing commitment for spending by both the state and local communities be done in a cost effective way.As one member of the Task Force said, "Every dollar we spend on transportation is overhead and is a dollar not available for the direct education of our kids".

  

Specific actions have been taken to begin the implementation of the reportís recommendations.

 

First, the Department of Education has designed and is implementing a State administered School Bus Purchasing Program.This program will offer all public school systems the opportunity to purchase school buses through a state bid process.Expected outcomes of this program are cost savings generated through volume purchasing, reduced local effort required to purchase buses, increased standardization within the public school bus fleet, and an improved turnover rate for our public school bus fleet.In addition to these potential savings, other indirect improvements relating to the safety and maintenance of the fleet are also expected.

 

Second, a companion effort to the purchasing program is the introduction of a Department sponsored bill in this session of the Legislature which, if passed, will modify sections of Title 20-A and Title 29-A relating to the definition of a school bus, the way school bus lease-purchases are subsidized, and finally, the school bus inspection process.These proposed changes are necessary to bring Maine into compliance with federal pupil transportation regulations. They will also reduce the timeframe for the payment of lease purchase subsidy from two years to one year, and will improve the effectiveness of the school bus inspection process.

 

Third, DOE staff members are working with representatives from the Department of Public Safety, the Maine Association for Pupil Transportation and local school districts to revise and update the Uniform School Bus Standardsí for Maine and the Maine School Bus Inspection rules.In addition, task teams are also working on the development of a new school bus driver trainer program and new guidelines for the transportation of children with special needs.These initiatives, along with those outlined in the paragraph above, are part of the process to implement the ďbest practicesĒ recommendations contained in the Transportation Report.

 

Finally, a fourth initiative is underway to revise transportation data and cost reporting procedures.Successful completion of this step is necessary to provide accurate information to be used for cost analysis leading to the identification of other cost improvement opportunities and subsidy formula revisions.

 

Any comments or questions that you may have regarding the report and itís recommendations can be forwarded to Rhonda Casey, Executive Assistant to the State Board of Education, at (207) 624-6616 or via email at rhonda.casey@state.me.us or Harvey Boatman, Education Specialist, at (207) 624-6884 or via e-mail at harvey.boatman@state.me.us.

  

 

Cc:Senator Betty Lou Mitchell, Chair, Education Committee

†††††† Representative Shirley K. Richards, Chair, Education Committee