We’ve heard the stories about schools cutting arts and music programs and charging new fees for sports because of tight budgets. But charging parents for school bus transportation? It seems unconscionable that states would put such an obstacle in the way of the education of children.
It is happening, as described in this article from Pew’s Stateline:
California and Massachusetts are among the states where some districts are billing parents for bus service. In Hawaii, the education department runs the state’s single school district and charges for bus transportation.
Fees vary from district to district. The Jeffco Public Schools in Golden, Colorado, for example, charge $150 a child per year. Students in grades 7 through 12 in Franklin, Massachusetts, pay $325 each, with a cap of $975 per family. And the Poway Unified School District in San Diego County, California, bills $575 a year per child, with a cap of $1,437 for three or more children. …
For the Murrieta Valley Unified School District in southern California, billing for bus service is a fiscal necessity, said Barbara Ortiz-Monson, the district’s transportation director. “Our district is one of the lowest-funded districts in the state of California,” she said. “It costs $3.5 million a year to run the transportation program. The state only gives us $86,000.”
Some districts take into account a family’s income when deciding if or how much one has to pay; others don’t, creating a hardship for low-income parents.
Back in October, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released a report saying that at least 30 states provided less funding per student in the 2014-15 school year than they did before the recession. Of course, the costs didn’t go away. States have just changed who’s paying for them.