[Editors Note: CandysDirt.com reached out to both Dallas County Schools and advocates for ending Dallas County Schools, for his thoughts on the upcoming proposition regarding DCS. Dustin Marshall provided his thoughts last week, and DCS trustee Kyle Renard provides hers this week. Early voting began Monday, and continues until Nov. 3. Election Day is Nov. 7.]
By Kyle Renard, M.D.
By now, you have probably heard one side of the story for what weighs in the balance for the vote on Dallas County Schools, which operates school buses for several districts in North Texas. As a DCS trustee, I want to present the other side for Proposition A.
Any district is free to discontinue using the services of DCS at any time with a 30-day written notice. DCS does not have to be abolished for a district to choose a different transportation option. Abolishing DCS takes the choice away from all of the districts in Dallas County. All seven of the suburban districts served by DCS have expressed support for and satisfaction with the service.
School districts that use DCS save millions of dollars in transportation costs, money that can be used for the education of children. The market value of transportation, as bid by private vendors, is more than 50 percent higher than the DCS bid, as evidenced by actual bids this year to school districts in Dallas County.
For example, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD saved $2.5 million a year by using DCS instead of a private vendor, and Cedar Hill ISD saved $900,000 a year by using DCS. The total amount saved by the districts in Dallas County adds up to almost $43 million a year — more than twice the amount of the property tax collected.
Why do these savings matter? Because these dollars can be put right back into the classroom to directly benefit students.
The Texas Legislature set up the one penny ad valorem tax appropriated to DCS to help school districts offset the cost of transportation. If DCS is abolished, this tax will continue to be collected, but used only to pay off the debt of DCS, no longer helping to offset transportation costs.
Transportation costs for the school districts, which come out of the general fund, will most certainly increase by a large amount. The statutes that remove tax money dedicated to providing bus transportation give the money to creditors, and leave the public school children without that tax money to pay for public school bus transportation.
DCS has made its share of mistakes, and we deeply regret that. Since February, we have made significant strides to correct the past and improve the organization.
We have strengthened our financial position, we are current on all of our payments, and we are in no danger of bankruptcy.
We have new leadership in our administration from the top down, and all employees involved in recent questionable business transactions have been removed from DCS. The board of trustees has a new president and several new board members, and has enacted policies to ensure greater financial oversight, increased transparency, and stronger ethics policies.
An investigation was requested by DCS this spring; this process is ongoing and we are confident that justice will be served regarding those responsible for the mismanagement.
Under the new board and management, DCS has seen marked improvement in several key performance areas.
- Traffic citations have decreased from 149 in 2016 to 20 in 2017.
- Roadway accidents are down 24 percent in the 2016-17 school year compared with the prior year.
- The on-time rate for Dallas ISD was 98.5 percent for August to September 2017 and 95 percent system-wide.
Trying to punish DCS for past mistakes by shutting it down will, without a doubt, cost the school districts more and negatively affect the funds used to educate children. The children of Dallas County will be the actual ones punished if DCS is dissolved. The focus should be on the present and the aggressive steps being taken to improve DCS and not on events in the past.
Vote for Dallas County Schools to continue its mission to provide cost-effective, safe and reliable student transportation services to school districts in Dallas County.
Kyle Renard is a Dallas County Schools trustee and local physician. She shared her thoughts with several news outlets, including CandysDirt.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.