Saturday, February 14, 2004


Transportation costs have gone up by 60 percent in the Omaha Public Schools over the past decade. What brought up that very un-Valentinesy matter? A friend saw an enormous bus pull away from an OPS magnet in west Omaha after school on Friday with one -- count ‘em -- one pupil on board.

That kid could ride in a LIMO with an armful of red Valentine's roses and a bottle of (non-alcoholic) champagne for a lot less money than it cost to give him a solo ride on that bus.

My friend didn't follow it to see how many miles it drove, and didn't get the bus number and so forth. But she DID get mad, wondering how much transportation is costing us under OPS' wacky system of assigning and moving pupils. And she fears that last week's cuts in state aid to many school districts will be interpreted as stingy taxpayers shaking teachers upside down by the ankles to rob them of their extra coinage, instead of what it really signifies: overspending in nonclassroom areas.

Teacher pay is far from the ONLY reason taxes are so high. Transportation is a big area where a private-sector management consultant could save us some big, big bucks, if the educrats would only let them come in and put pencil to paper for more efficiency. Schools need to change the way they do business, and have for a long time.

I checked the financial statements on the Nebraska Department of Education website for OPS' transportation spending reports, and found:

$7,294,999.56 in regular transportation
$4,576,395.66 in special-education transportation
$11,871,395.22 total

$10,253,444.74 in regular transportation
$9,430,195.37 in special-ed transportation
$19,683,640.11 total

Increase: 60 percent.

SPED transportation, you'll note, posted an increase of more than 100 percent in 10 years. Meanwhile, in the same reports to the state, OPS said enrollment had increased by less than 5 percent in that same decade.

The numbers screech for a management tuneup. Will anyone listen? The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round . . . maybe now it's time we started HONKING, too.

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