More people are living at the official poverty rate than during the last decade according to U.S. Census data released today. A logical leap could be that more children and parents need school transportation services as a result.
Census 2010 shows that one in seven U.S. citizens, or 14.3 percent of the more than 310 million nationwide, were at or below the poverty level in 2009, more than a 1 percent spike from 2008 data. That equates to more than 43.5 million Americans. And the The news came after the U.S. Department of Education released findings earlier this year that rates of homeless students rose by more than 40 percent during the 2008-2009 school year over the previous two school years. And with national unemployment still flirting with 10 percent, the Great Recession while technically over continues to cut a wide swath across the country. As USA Today notes, child poverty passed 20 percent for the first time since 1996, fueled by a large gain among white children — from 10.6 percent to 11.9 percent, according to the Brookings Institution.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see national school bus ridership numbers for 2009-2010, which will be gathered later this fall. There has been anecdotal, non-scientific survey results over the past three school years to indicate the total number of K-12 students nationwide who are transported via school bus has risen, though those figures represent data from some states that have not been updated in several years. This despite school bus manufacturing output dropping. Perhaps this illustrates added efficiencies by school districts in getting more kids on fewer buses.
Still, with an American Association of School Administrators survey this spring showing that an additional 40 percent of its members forecasted additional school transportation route cuts this year, the time is now for the industry to make further strides to embrace the growing number of school kids who desperately need help in getting to class.
There are requirements under the McKinney-Vento Act that school districts ensure homeless students get to and from their school of origin, utilizing the school bus or other services independently or in coordination with other school districts or providers. The feds also require students with disabilities that have IEPs outlining school bus or other transportation service that is necessary to get them to and from school and/or related therapy or doctor visits. Head Start, increasingly a part of the school transportation family, also has its requirements for busing low-income and homeless preschoolers. What about the rest of the children?