|Q&A with NSTA Executive Director Ronna Weber|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Tuesday, 30 October 2012 09:19|
Ronna Weber became the executive director of the National School Transportation Association earlier this year after several years of hiatus from working on related industry issues at Washington, D.C.–based lobbying firm Prime Policy Group.
School Transportation News recently caught up with Weber to discuss what it means for her to be again working with the student transportation industry, how her experience on Capitol Hill will be of value in her new position and to receive an update on how NSTA is viewing transit encroachment on private school bus services. Following are her responses.
School Transportation News: In light of your industry experience, what did you miss most about school transportation during your time away?
Ronna Weber: In my four years away from the industry, I honestly missed the people most of all. I have worked with a wide variety of people and on varying issues over the years, but I have missed working with and learning from people who care as deeply about their industry and the issues they support as I have found in the school transportation industry.
STN: What does it mean to you personally to be NSTA executive director?
RW: I thoroughly enjoyed the years I spent working for NSTA at (Washington, D.C., lobbying firm) Prime Policy. Of all the issues I worked on during my tenure, NSTA’s issues were always my favorite. Now, with two elementary school age children who ride the school bus, safety issues are even more important to me. I feel very fortunate and proud to be helping this industry and having my children understand what I do and being proud of that as well is a great combination.
STN: With your previous lobbying experience, how can that help NSTA and the school bus industry going forward?
RW: Having a greater understanding of the federal process, as well as the history behind many of the issues, is a giant step ahead in the process. I have faith in our lobbying team, but I also understand how their efforts work and how together we can achieve great things. It is a wonderful partnership.
STN: What is your and the board’s vision for the future?
RW: NSTA would very much like to see outsourced transportation grow in the coming years. Given the economic situation most localities are finding themselves in these days, we are hopeful that opportunities lie ahead and we welcome them. To that end, we encourage school districts to be mindful that as they cut their budgets, cutting yellow school bus service and sacrificing safety is simply not an option. In addition, we are continually seeking ways to increase benefits to our members – primarily through our legislative and regulatory efforts.
STN: What are the most pressing concerns for contracted business in this economy?
RW: Contractors are most concerned with the safety of the children they transport every day. We have seen an increase lately in stop arm violators and bullying, both of which present issues for bus drivers every day. We have an amazing safety record, and we want to ensure that it stays that way.
STN: Can you share the latest updates on how NSTA is targeting alleged encroachment by transit agencies?
RW: NSTA, above all else, is focused on safety. We know that children are safest if they take the yellow bus to school – eight times safer than riding in the family car and 50 times safer than driving themselves or riding with a friend. We take alleged encroachment by transit agencies (prohibited by Title 49, Part 605 of the FTA Regulations) very seriously and will continue to investigate and fight all efforts that are believed to be a violation. Following the law and ensuring the safest transportation possible for children every day seem only fair to us. For those reasons, we are “opposed” to any action by a school district that would reduce or eliminate public or private yellow school bus service and place students on any vehicle other than a yellow school bus while being transported to and from school.
STN: What might be the long-term impact on those whose primary purpose is to transport students?
RW: There are approximately 450,000 school buses operating in the United States. Two-thirds of these school buses are operated by the public sector and one-third by the private sector. At the current trend of transit encroachment the greatest decrease in yellow school bus service will likely continue in the public sector due to a conflict of interest between the public school bus operators and their policy makers and their lack of legal recourse against transit encroachment. The private sector will continue to monitor and file complaints with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on those transit authorities that violate FTA Rules on school bus operations.
STN: Is there a compromise?
RW: Local jurisdictions are forced to make budgetary decisions every day. Many areas have sacrificed transportation spending in order to maintain or increase classroom spending. Choosing one over the other sacrifices the ability of a local entity to provide adequate transportation service. We do not agree with this choice and do not see this as a viable compromise.
STN: Thank you.
|Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 11:38|