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School Bus Privatization Blocked in Maryland’s Second-Largest District

Photo by: Edward Shackleford, iStock
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AFSCME members in Maryland have put the brakes on a proposal to partially privatize school bus operations in one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Members of ACE-AFSCME Local 2250 blocked the Prince George’s County Board of Education’s plan to hire 300 bus drivers and attendants in 2019-2020 school year from for-profit bus companies.

In May, the board issued a request for proposals (RFP) to solicit bids from for-profit bus companies to hire bus drivers and attendants in the 2019-2020 school year. A vote was to be taken at a June 20 meeting. The board was set to approve a five-year, multimillion-dollar school bus contract to a sole unknown bidder.

“It has been proven that outsourcing does not save money in the long run and that the participants rarely have the same concerns for the students as those of us that live in the county,” explained ACE-AFSCME Local 2250 President Denise Yorkshire. “These are our children, grandchildren and neighbors whom we consider our precious cargo.”

In 2018, the board withdrew a similar proposal for estimated to cost $7.5 million. This year’s RFP was revised to expand the transportation staff and buses to be privatized – and raised the possibility of a complete takeover of contracted employees – at an undisclosed cost.

Local 2250, which represents more than 1,400 transportation employees at Maryland’s second-largest school district, came together to fight this privatization proposal and filed a grievance against the RFP, stating that the board violated the bargaining agreement by soliciting bids that would take jobs from members. The local also contended that privatization would not save money, but diminish accountability and hurt workers, their families and local economies.

Local 2250 members organized and wrote hundreds of letters to school board members urging them to cancel the vote. Additionally, they planned to hold a rally against the RFP prior to the school board's vote at the board's headquarters in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

“My ask (was to) kill the RFP because it’s detrimental to our members today and tomorrow,” Yorkshire stated.

The actions won notice and member concerns were heard. The school board decided to dismiss the vote on June 19, one day before the board’s meeting. 

“Today we are discussing outsourcing transportation, tomorrow we may be discussing Central Garage and Maintenance and Food Service,” Yorkshire said. “We cannot allow this to happen to our members.”