July 23, 2015

School Districts Begin to Charge for Busing as State Aid Declines

According to Stateline, school districts in at least five states are charging parents school transportation fees in order to preserve other programming when faced with budget cuts.

Citing an October 2014 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C. research group, Stateline reports that states have cut back on their education funding over the past seven years.  At least 30 were providing less funding per student last year than they did before the 2008 recession, and 14 cut funding by 10% or more. 

Examples of school districts that have begun charging for bus service to offset these funding cuts include:
  • Jeffco Public Schools in Golden, Colorado, which charges $150 per child, per year;
  • Franklin Public Schools in Franklin, Massachusetts, which charges for students in grades seven to 12 at the rate of $325 per child per year, capped at $975 per family; and
  • Poway Unified School District in San Diego County, California, which charges $575 a year per child, capped at $1,437 for three or more children.
Hawaii also charges for busing.  The entire state consists of one school district run by the state’s education department.

Some parents are upset at the charges while others are supportive of the charges’ purpose.  For families with a lower income, the fees may create attendance barriers.  The fees have also upset parents who already are required to pay athletic fees, book fees, and technology fees to their child’s school. 

In a district such as the Douglas County School District in Colorado, however, parents were supportive of fees that provided an upgraded safety and security system for public school buses.  The fee revenue paid for a real-time GPS tracking system to monitor students who ride the bus.  The district charges $150 per year, per student.