CHICAGO (CBS) — From late buses to skipped inspections, CBS 2’s Morning Insiders have discovered Chicago Public Schools fined busing companies more than $272,000 dollars last school year for various shortcomings.
Despite the penalties, parents are still reporting several busing issues so far this year.
CBS 2 first started investigating the issues in early September, the first week of the new school year. Mary Fahey Hughes said her son Aidan’s bus, run by Sunrise Transportation, had been showing up late–in one case about a half hour after the first bell. Aidan is a special needs student at a CPS school.
“I’m very concerned because our kids need to get to school,” she said.
The Morning Insiders took the issue to CPS, and they said if the problems continued the district would the fine bus companies responsible.
CBS 2 filed a Freedom of Information Act request and dug into CPS’ records, which show the district fined Sunrise alone more than $82,000 dollars last school year for at least 71 alleged violations. The listed failures included operating without an approved camera or GPS, showing up late or not at all, and missing electronic inspections.
Sunrise is not alone. The district fined the A.M. Bus Company more than $45,000–twice for releasing a special needs to student to an unauthorized adult or no adult.
The Illinois Central School Bus Company was fined more than $42,000.
Still, buses kept showing up late at the start of this year. CBS 2 asked CPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson about the issues.
“We had a few roues that we had to make adjustments on, and I expect by the end of the week (the first week), we will see that stabilize as it has in the past, and we’ll be on the right path,” she said.
Several parents said the issues did improve after week one, but one parent said, in late September, her child was dropped off at home more than two hours after the school day ended.
Another mom, Laurie Viets, said, during the second week, the bus showed up more than 20 minutes after the scheduled morning pickup window of 6:43 to 6:53 a.m. She had already told us about similar problems during the first week.
“It’s just really, really frustrating,” Viets said.
CBS 2 found that CPS fined bus companies more than $24,000 just in the first few weeks of this year.
The Morning Insiders reached out to CPS multiple times for an interview to ask how they collect the fines, whether there is an appeals process, and whether they feel the fines are effective. We have not heard back.
The district’s contract with Sunrise says CPS can deduct the fines from their payments to Sunrise, which vary year-to-year. Last year, the district paid Sunrise more than $13 million for their services.
CBS 2 has also reached out to several of the bus companies that were fined. They either did not respond to our calls or would not agree to an interview.
A representative for one company, who asked to stay anonymous, said the company was able to discuss the fines with CPS and get the amount they owed reduced. However, he would not say how much it was reduced.