D.C. Moves to Retake Control of School Buses by July
The District today petitioned a federal judge to return control of the city's public school transportation system to local authorities.
According to today's filing, a "first class school transportation system" has been established under court administrator David Gilmore and "it is now time to return control of this function to the government elected by the citizens of the District of Columbia."
Attorney General Peter Nickles has made it a top priority to remove court oversight from numerous District government agencies—mental health, child welfare, and special education, to name a few. Some haven't been under full local control in decades.
The court oversight of DCPS transportation is relatively young, dating back only to 2003, but the oversight has been complete.
Gilmore, a former head of the D.C. Housing Authority, has been given virtual carte blanche to run the city's education transportation efforts. This fiscal year, the city is set to spend $77.4 million to run a system comprising more than 600 bus routes serving some 3,800 special needs students. These routes, some to facilities well outside of District boundaries, sometimes serve only one or two students who have been placed in school that offer special-ed services that DCPS cannot provide.
DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee has complained publicly about being unable to have any say over transportation spending, though she has maintained a good relationship with Gilmore and meets regularly with him.
Gilmore, according to a court filing, has himself told U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman that the DCPS transportation office is "consistently providing safe, timely, and appropriate transportation services" and that "it is appropriate to initiate a process of transition" to local control. He has proposed a plan for that transition, and the city has asked that Gilmore, as a "supervising court master," be appointed to oversee it.
Barring any muckups, the city hopes to gain control of the transportation system by July 7 of next year.
There is some controversy: The plaintiffs in the case that led to Gilmore's appointment do not agree that the District should be handed total control in July. Rather, they argue that after the transition period, the court should then reassess whether to give the District control.
UPDATE, 7:45 P.M.: A point of clarification: If and when local control returns to the District, the education transport apparatus will not remain with DCPS, under the control of Rhee. Rather, it will be budgeted and managed through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, helmed by Kerri Briggs.