Tour buses vs.By Craig Gima
Is safety at risk?
For Glenn Young of Iolani School, the choice is obvious: Is it better to ride in an air-conditioned tour bus or a yellow school bus with windows for ventilation?
Young, who runs the Iolani Prep Classic basketball tournament, said high school teams from the mainland can ride the tour buses, but by law, local students must ride on approved school buses.
"If our kids could have opportunity of riding tour buses, to me there's no decision to be made," he said.
But those opposed to changing the law say safety should not be compromised for comfort and convenience.
"If we are to use any form of transportation for our children, we need to use the safest form of transportation available -- the school bus," Jaime Umemoto, a resource teacher at Kapunahala Elementary School wrote to lawmakers at the Capitol.
Bills to allow tour buses to transport students are moving in both chambers of the Legislature.
The House Transportation and Education committees yesterday, amended a Senate bill to allow only high school students to use tour buses for school-related events, not for daily transportation. The bill now goes on to the Finance Commitee. The Senate Education Committee defered a decision on a companion House measure.
"School buses are specifically designed with safety features to transport school children safely," school Superintendent Paul LeMahieu testified.
Besides the Department of Education, the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools and the Department of Transportation oppose the bills to change the law.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association testified in support of the intent of the bill but noted that the union is still looking at the safety issue.
Gerald Hayashi, director of operations for Roberts Hawaii, which operates both school and tour buses, said tour buses are not unsafe. However, school buses and school bus drivers must meet higher safety standards.