When the 2015 academic year began in Fort Wayne, Indiana, roughly 7,000 students were left at the bus stop without a ride.
One Hoosier mother has resorted to combining the efforts of everyone in her extended family to get her children to and from school. It’s a daunting task and there is little relief on the horizon due to a series of budget cuts that forced the district to remove a number of school buses from service.
Until recently, the task of transporting students to class has been left to the school bus, an important resource for single parents working two jobs or families without vehicles, with almost half of American schoolchildren utilizing this method each year. Now, that’s changing. With budgets dwindling, transportation departments are being affected.
As reported by The Economist, Fort Wayne and many other cities around the U.S. are slashing the transportation department budgets and constraining district efforts to raise money with caps on revenue generators like property taxes.
It’s been a hard few years for school districts, particularly transportation departments. The trend began in 2010 when an anti-tax fervor swept a number of local and national politicians into office with the intention of reducing the amount of tax dollars that go to public services.
The Fort Wayne school district faces a $2.5 million loss to its transportation budget for the coming year. It is further hindered by restrictions on redirecting money from other funds or charge transport fees to make up for the deficit.
To make matters worse, buses are funded by property taxes in Indiana and state legislators recently passed property-tax caps in March. Local officials in Fort Wayne have also depleted school resources through tax breaks for businesses and diverted monies raised by property taxes for economic development.
This isn’t limited to just one district. According to The Economist, a number of other Indiana school districts have proposed scraping their school bus services all together.
While the Indiana Supreme Court ruled children have the right to free education, it concluded that right does not guarantee free access to transportation to school.
“Fort Wayne’s bus crisis is surely fixable,” wrote The Economist. “Indiana passed rigid tax caps without pondering the trade-offs that might follow.”