Students in Kansas City Public Schools will ride to school next year on new propane-fueled buses, part of a three-year, $60.6 million transportation contract with Student Transportation of America.
“We’re very excited about that,” said Linda Quinley, chief financial officer for the district, after the school board voted to approve the contract Wednesday night.
“We’re also excited about the fact that STA is committed to paying our drivers more than their current collective bargaining agreement that their union calls for. So they’re going to sit down at the table and negotiate compensation to improve the lives of drivers.”
Dozens of those drivers attended the meeting Wednesday night to support First Student, the company that currently provides bus service to the district’s 14,000 students.
“We have been committed to you,” driver Kelly Hamilton told the board. “Be committed to us.”
First Student, which also bid on the three-year contract, had filed a lawsuit in Jackson County Tuesday afternoon to try to stop the board from voting but did not get the temporary restraining order it sought. In the lawsuit, First Student alleged that the district had improperly allowed STA to modify its bid after the request-for-proposals period closed.
“We have been providing service; we have earned the right to continue,” said John Billigmeier, the region vice president for First Student. “We are not working on a level playing field. We are the lower provider by a substantial amount.”
But not the way the district calculated it. First Student submitted separate bids for busing and transportation management, totaling $64.7 million. STA, which currently handles transportation management for the district, submitted just the $60.6 million bid for busing. Quinley said it would be cheaper to create an in-house transportation department to oversee the contract with STA, bringing the total cost to $61.9 million over three years.
First Student drivers will get preferential hiring with STA, Quinley said.
She said the district was also excited about a mobile app that would provide parents with information about bus locations in real time. STA specified in its bid that the app would be available in both English and Spanish.
Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.