HELENA, Mont. - A recent legislative audit finds there are at least 64 Montana school bus drivers with criminal records, including two with drunken-driving convictions within three years of the study.
NBC Montana dug through the report today and found that not every school district requires criminal background checks for bus drivers. We contacted school districts in Missoula, Kalispell, Bozeman and Butte – all reported they run a criminal background check and look into driving history before hiring bus drivers.
That's not the case for every district. The audit recommends that "The Office of Public Instruction require districts to perform background checks for school bus drivers to ensure drivers meet all criteria for criminal and driving history."
In a response to the recommendation State Superintendent Denise Juneau wrote "We concur. The OPI will recommend to the Board of Public Education that it amend its administrative rules to require districts to perform criminal history background checks for school bus drivers."
In addition, the report also looks at how some school districts appear to be taking advantage of a reimbursement policy in which the larger the bus, the higher the payment rate per mile.
Another district appeared to be padding its mileage, claiming a driver's route was twice as long as it really was.
Those are among the findings in the school transportation funding and safety audit presented Thursday to the Legislative Audit Committee.
In addition to requiring background checks, auditors are recommending changes that include examining the reimbursement rate system and the use of global-positioning systems in each bus to more accurately track their mileage.
You can read the full report here.