Columbus City School union bus drivers say I told you so

Columbus Public Schools resumed classes today after having to close due to a lack of bus drivers. A contract company the system uses to drive buses discovered it had not completed background checks on its drivers. Now union workers are speaking out about the problem with contract employees.

Tom Drabick is the director of legal services for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees. Drabick said union bus drivers have said repeatedly that using private companies to do a public job is bad news.

“It’s because the private companies do the work cheaper, and obviously from what happened yesterday less efficiently. And so the schools districts believe they can save some money but at what inconveniences to the people they provide services to?” Drabick said.

But Columbus Public Schools superintendent Gene Harris Thursday defended the use of First Student.

“We hired them because we need them. We need their drivers, we need those buses to make sure that all of our students can get to schools appropriately,” Harris said.

Drabick said union drivers are concerned about the problems surrounding non-union drivers. He said the 500 union bus drivers were ready Thursday morning to pick up Columbus students.

“If the emphasis and the focus were on retaining public employees to do that work instead of a short-sighted escape and going to the private company, it’s clear just from what happened yesterday that public employees would have gotten the job done,” Drabick said.

The state Attorney General’s office, which helped complete First Student background checks turned over the material to the Columbus City Prosecutor’s office to determine whether charges will be filed. Lara Baker with the city prosecutor’s office said that decision has not been made. Repeated calls to First Student remain unanswered.

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