Asserting that South Carolina's school bus fleet is one of the oldest in the nation, State School Superintendent Molly Spearman is asking the state legislature for $95 million in buy 1,000 or more new buses.
The Columbia State reports that Spearman characterized the state's system for replacing aging vehicles as a failure because of inconsistent funding.
Spearman says in a news release that since the 1950s, South Carolina has owned, fueled, and maintained the school buses that transport students to and from its public schools. That means the state operates 5,582 school buses that in 2016 traveled more than 82.2 million miles. More than half of the fleet—2,805 buses—are more than 15 years old.
“We can no longer wait to address the needs of our state’s student transportation system," says Spearman.
The $95 million would enable the state to replace buses that are more than 20 years old.
The legislature enacted a law that mandated a 15-year replacement cycle for school buses, but funding has been "episodic" and heavily affected by the Recession, the superintendent says. The replacement cycle also does not account for high levels of student growth that is occurring in some areas.
Spearman also wants lawmakers to provide more funding for bus drivers' salaries. She noted that jobs are difficult to fill because of the low salaries.