Pair of Midlands school leaders make a statement about buses: 'It makes me angry'

Pair of Midlands school leaders make a statement about buses: 'It makes me angry'

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Tami Pagan expects better.

"We have one at Muller Road Middle School and four at Killian Elementary," said the Richland County mother.

Her children take the bus to school, and she said that's the reason they show up late to class a lot.

"They're on the bus way too long. There's always phone calls that they had to take another route of students home, so our children will be late, and it makes me nervous not knowing where the kids are exactly and how long they've had to sit at school and wait for the bus to get them and when they'll be home. And if we have plans, it kind of sets up back," Pagan said.

It's a familiar problem for Richland School District Two.

"It makes me angry. I get quite angry at the fact that our students are at risk," said Richland Two Board Chair James Manning.

On Wednesday, Manning joined Richland One Chair Cheryl Harris to make a public statement against a veto by Governor Henry McMaster that stops roughly $20 million of lottery funds from going to the state's failing buses.

Of South Carolina's roughly 5,600 buses, about 3,000 are older than 15 years.

According to data from February 2017, about 47 percent of Richland Two's fleet is more than 21 years old; 40 percent for Newberry, 35 percent for Lexington One, and 29 percent for Richland One.

"We had a group of our elementary students traveling out of town, and they were traveling along I-20, and the bus broke down. Our A.C. Moore students. With that bus breaking down, it was about 91 degrees that day," said Harris.

"In our school district, we had a bus catch fire last year. We had students on the bus. We had adults on the bus that were put at risk. We've seen it in other parts of the state," added Manning.

In fact, documents show there have been 108 bus fires and dangerous overheating incidents on South Carolina buses since 1995.

"Well, it doesn't make you feel good. Honestly, it makes you feel a little insecure," Harris said.

The two leaders said it's time for the state to fund buses better and it's time for lawmakers to override the governor now – with families in mind.

"Our children's safety getting to and from school is just as important as the education they get while they're at school, if not more important," said Pagan.

The state has said it would cost about $72 million to replace the problematic, fire-prone buses from 1995. Meanwhile, McMaster has indicated that he'd like to see the non-guaranteed lotto funds go to scholarships, as designed.

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