Fairfax County Is Running Empty School Buses

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A worker takes a break while cleaning up a basketball court at Glasgow Middle School, a Fairfax County Public School, during deadline day for families and teachers countywide to decide between teaching/learning from home or in the classroom due to the coronavirus, in Falls Church, Va., July 15, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

This is like something out of some kind of Soviet central-planning misadventure: Fairfax County, Va., wants to keep paying its school-bus drivers even though its schools are operating online. The solution?  Send the drivers out to drive anyway. Not only the drivers, but the attendants on the buses, will be required to go on these ghost trips. “All drivers and attendant[s] will be required to run their routes twice a week to sharpen your driving skills,” reads an email Wednesday, obtained by the Washington Post. “If you are unable to perform this task . . . you must put in for leave.”

So school buses will be adding to traffic, pollution, and carbon emissions, all in the name of avoiding cutbacks in public spending that are of dire importance when tax revenues have wilted. What happens if one of these buses crashes on one of its phantom routes? What happens if people are killed or injured for no reason? I suppose the county will simply pay the resulting legal damages, again out of the public purse.

Food-service workers in schools are also not needed as long as the online-only schooling model continues. So what has happened to them? Zero layoffs. Not even any furloughs. Everybody is still getting their regular paycheck. In August, Fairfax superintendent Scott Brarand boasted in a message to staff that no drivers or food-service employees would be furloughed for the entire 2020–21 school year. Taxpayers will just have to go along with the idea that the purpose of their “public servants” is to keep serving themselves.

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The way states, municipalities, and other public authorities are putting off the day of tightening up their budgets is a marvel. It seems as though every government agency in America is simply waiting for a free-spending Democratic administration to sweep in and bail them out. Is anybody seizing the opportunity to reduce future structural costs? Not that I can see.

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