- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s school bus fleet is so old, Superintendent Mick Zais’ $34 million request for new ones won’t even replace all those that have been on the road for a quarter-century.

The schools chief told a House budget-writing panel last week the money would allow the Department of Education to replace buses that are at least 23 years old.

But it wouldn’t replace all of them.

The money would buy roughly 415 buses, fulfilling a 2007 law that legislators ignored during the downturn, which calls for replacing one-fifteenth of the fleet yearly.

Numbers the agency provided The Associated Press show the statewide fleet includes 245 buses that are 23 years old, 754 buses that are 25 years old and 88 buses that are 26 years old. The agency hopes to buy about 285 buses later this school year with the $23.5 million legislators designated in the current state budget. But it hasn’t received all of that money yet.

Buses’ age and total mileage would determine which would be decommissioned, agency spokesman Dino Teppara said Wednesday.

The fleet has a total of 1,215 buses that are 21-to-26 years old. The agency expects each bus in the fleet to travel, on average, 16,600 miles next school year.