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BOE questions bus program changes

December 5, 2012
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - Members of the state Board of Education on Tuesday questioned the cost and benefit of following a consultant's recommendations and overhauling Hawaii's student transportation program.

Management Partnership Services was hired to review the state busing system amid concerns about rising costs. The consultant found that the system needs substantive changes.

In its report, it cited problems with procurement rules and contracting, noting that the cost of school bus contracts has risen sharply since 2006. It also cited poor training of the state staff overseeing the nearly $70 million program. The consultant said a multiyear commitment to change would be necessary, and that it believed both the state and the Department of Education are "committed and able to undertake this critical transformation."

A department spokeswoman on Monday said the department will have to determine what changes it believes can be implemented and the board will have to approve any changes. Legislative approval would be needed for any procurement changes. The next legislative session opens in January.

During a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, several board members said they felt pressure to find a solution, given the public attention to the problem, but there were questions about how successful - and realistic - the consultant's approach was. Uncertain, too, is the cost of implementation.

Tom Platt, president of Management Partnership Services, said his firm lays out the ideal for its clients, and those clients see success with the recommendations they follow. He said he's never seen a situation where investing in management has failed to yield dividends.

The report followed a highly critical state audit that found that the department had "lost control" of the busing program and "ineffective and unsystematic" management had resulted in soaring costs.

Board member Wesley Lo said this may be a situation that calls for incremental rather than "revolutionary" change. He questioned how fast the Legislature could move to make changes to state laws and procurement rules - and whether legislation could be drafted to be taken up in the coming session.

 
 
 

 

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