A court-appointed administrator who oversees transportation for thousands of D.C. special-education students is at odds with D.C. school officials over his latest budget proposal.
The D.C. Board of Education last month rejected a budget request by transportation administrator David Gilmore to set aside $72.8 million for special-education transit costs for fiscal 2006. Instead, the board approved a resolution to budget $61.2 million for the transit program.
Mr. Gilmore, who was appointed in 2003 as part of a federal class-action lawsuit, said it is up to the court, not the school board, to approve his budget.
“It doesn’t mean much,” Mr. Gilmore said of the board’s resolution. “It’s an empty gesture in a lot of ways.”
The school board’s resolution “acknowledges that $61.2 million may be inadequate to run the division of transportation for the entire fiscal year, but the information presented … is insufficient to support the current $72.8 million budget request.”
The school board also instructed Superintendent Clifford B. Janey to “either internally or through a contractor” conduct a program and budget analysis of the transportation program.
The board said it would reconsider Mr. Gilmore’s budget request after the analysis is completed.
School officials last week did not respond to questions about when they expect to complete the analysis.
Mr. Gilmore said the school system could cut costs “through a restructuring of how children are educated.”
“There is significant money to be saved,” he said.
Many of the approximately 600 bus routes that take students to and from school each day are for rides outside the District, Mr. Gilmore said.
He said the school system should work toward educating students closer to their homes, a move that he said would reduce the amount spent on transportation.
The dispute reflects increasing tension between Mr. Gilmore and the school board over the past year.
During the summer, attorneys for the District complained in court documents that Mr. Gilmore exceeded a $61.2 million cap by millions of dollars.
Attorneys for the District argued that officials cut funding from other programs to cover the unplanned budget shortfall in transportation.
In separate legal filings, Mr. Gilmore stated that both sides originally sought to cap the budget at $61.2 million, but he later learned that wasn’t possible.
Mr. Gilmore said the figure was based on fiscal 2002 expenditures “when the division of transportation was grossly out of compliance” with a court order to ensure timely and adequate transportation to special-education students.
He also cited school officials’ “frequent opposition” to his reforms.
“What defendants fail to acknowledge is that the District of Columbia public schools division of transportation was grossly mismanaged before the transportation administrator’s appointment and the District’s special needs students and their families suffered the repercussions,” he stated in legal filings.