“I want to draw everybody’s attention to HB 1266,” Shelby Eastern Schools transportation director Katrina Falk told the school board Wednesday evening.
The bill is simply titled “School Efficiency” and it’s summary on the indy.gov website reads: “Provides that, not later than October 1, 2021, the department of education (department) shall issue a request for information for the purposes of exploring potential opportunities to improve the efficiency of noninstructional school services.”
Falk said this would negatively impact all Shelby County schools’ transportation and maintenance services.
“The bill calls for the establishment of educational transportation authorities, so for Shelby County, this would mean the consolidation of transportation and facilities maintenance services between Shelbyville Central Schools, Shelby Eastern schools, Northwestern Consolidated Schools of Shelby County and Southwestern Consolidated Schools of Shelby County,” she said.
The bill has already passed through the Indiana State House of Representatives and the Senate with a couple of amendments. It heads back to the House of Representatives with the senate amendments for approval.
“Obviously, this proposed arrangement poses numerous logistical challenges that have yet to be properly addressed,” Falk continued. “In addition to that, we have personnel, operation management, maintenance and equipment concerns.”
Shelby Eastern Schools Superintendent Todd Hitchcock said the bill is an attempt to force consolidation of services for all school districts.
“Our local representatives know we don’t support it. But Katrina is correct, it has been passing,” he said. “However, they’ve removed some of the most harmful language, but the problem is, once it’s on the books, then it’s easier for them to add language to it later. We are not in support of it.”
Falk, who also serves as School Transportation Association of Indiana Region 8 Director and therefor oversees all Shelby County Schools transportation, said legislators have not solicited any input from her organization – “which is typical.”
“The school transportation association of Indiana issued an official letter opposing HB 1266 last month,” Falk said. “A number of region directors including myself sent additional letters in opposition to members of the Education and Career Development Board.”
Falk said she’s conducted an efficiency study for Shelby Eastern Schools and Northwestern Consolidated Schools to see what it would look like if they melded transportation together, which revealed it simply wasn’t as efficient as the current setup.
“As this bill continues to be amended and voted on, it is important that we note there is no supporting data that transportation operations are across the board inefficient, nor is it responsible to propose and blindly support legislation that has critical consequences to transportation services across the entire state in an attempt to reduce the operating fund,” Falk said.
“I compiled a 10-page, nine-part synopsis and powerpoint presentation that details one of the root causes of inefficiencies within transportation departments and how to address those inefficiencies through fleet optimization,” she said.
She sent this presentation and the study to the bill sponsors, Sen. Stacey Donato, Sen. Jeff Raatz, Sen. Kyle Walker.
“To me, establishing best practices guidance and training resources are available to individual school districts through the Indiana department of education office of school transportation, as well as the school transportation association of Indiana, is a more responsible starting point than imposing chancy legislation that fails to include the standpoint and expertise of industry personnel that it will directly impact.”
Hitchcock said a local representative told him he didn’t think it would pass into law. All the same, he’s still asking people to reach out to their local representatives and ask them to vote against HB 1266.