Spend less on busing, more on schooling

Thursday, December 20, 2012
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New York’s public schools have had to make deep spending cuts in recent years in response to rising costs and stagnating state aid. They’ve made some progress cutting transportation costs, but as this week’s Sunday Gazette story indicated, they could be making a lot more: Spending $3 billion on busing — roughly 5.7 percent of total school funding — is crazy.

Where to start cutting? How about making more students walk? By law, schools are only required to provide transportation for those in K-8 who live two or more miles away, or three miles or more away for high-schoolers. Granted, there are safety issues in some communities — a lack of sidewalks along busy streets — but school districts in pedestrian-friendly cities should expect their kids to do more walking. If nothing else, it’s good exercise, something all school kids need.

And why rely exclusively on school buses to provide transportation for high schoolers, when there are public bus companies in many communities? They should be used where possible.

The state should also get in the act. Why not, for example, drop the requirement that public school districts transport private school students, sometimes miles from their own community? The state should also re-jigger transportation aid formulas, so the neediest districts get more aid per-pupil than the richest ones.

In general, the state needs to be a lot less generous with transportation reimbursements, so school districts have more incentive to economize. Force them to assume a larger share of the costs, and they might start making more efficient use of their buses, sharing routes, equipment and maintenance facilities with other districts, getting their drivers to turn their engines off when waiting, rather than letting them idle endlessly, etc. There’s money to be saved, and better on something like transportation than educational programs.

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December 20, 2012
10:16 a.m.
biwemple says...

Start charging really high prices for student parking passes to offset the cost of running virtually empty middle & high school buses through suburban & rural neighborhoods. When diesel is often well over $4\gallon, this is a huge expense and wasted money. I often see nearly empty buses running through my neighborhood stopping at multiple houses and not picking anyone up. Often the students & parents jump into their cars immediately after the bus passes, or just before it arrives, to drive to school instead. If students are not going to use the bus, then these students and their parents should opt-out and then perhaps the district could run smaller buses, make fewer stops, and lessen the costs of fuel and wear & tear on these vehicles.

December 20, 2012
10:38 a.m.
justapto says...

How about merging all these separate school districts, multiple bus runs often overlapping each other, multiple admisistraters, etc into One county run organization?
Too simple, easy, cost effective but; the unions won't give up turf or control.
Push it any ways.

December 20, 2012
5:32 p.m.
BillCook says...

Expecting parents to send their 5 - 8 year old off to school by walking up to two miles by themselves is not realistic in this day and age. The concern is not only about lack of sidewalks, but our children's protection from predators. Frankly I don't care what the rest of the country is doing. NYS can set its own standard.

December 21, 2012
2:34 p.m.
geneshan2 says...

If they would go back to "neighborhood" schools and stop the expensive practice of Magnet Schools, that allow any child to go to any school in the district with free busing, maybe our school taxes would get a reprieve, at least in Amsterdam. I realize that the theory behind this type of schooling is to balance the educational standards so each school in a district is similar in opportunity to the rest, but how are we going to continue to support this expensive program. This all started with the State "gifts" to the district to implement this type of program, but then the "gifts" went away. BEWARE the State bearing gifts!

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