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Study: States Divided in Policies on Fee-Based Student Transportation

The state of Florida released findings today that less than half of the states allow school districts to charge parents fees for their children to ride the bus despite mounting education cuts nationwide.

The Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) published its report to determine how other states are responding to the ongoing economic crisis. Florida is one of 19 states yet to implement policies that allow school districts to charge the fees to recoup transportation costs. The study also found that 10 states allow school districts to sell advertising on the exterior of buses, and five states, including Florida, allow such advertising to be displayed on the interior.

Hawaii is the only state to require parents to pay a uniform school bus fee. California, Iowa and New Jersey have implemented a maximum amount that parents must pay. According to the study, most states were unable to report the number of school districts that charge fees as that data is unavailable. But OPPAGA found that Colorado reported only three of its 178 school districts charging fees. In that state, school districts are also allowed to sell advertising space on buses.

OPPAGA contacted eight districts nationwide that charge fees and learned that five of them predict generating $2.2 million in transportation fees during the current school year, or enough to pay for transportation services for approximately 4,000 students. The study also found six of the eight districts charge fees for transporting students who live outside of the walk zone, but in doing so, they also exempt students with disabilities from paying. Four of those districts also extend the exemptions to students from economically disadvantaged families, and one district charges these students reduced fees.

Meanwhile, 19 states prohibit school districts from charging fees — the most notable being Indiana, where the Attorney General ruled in 2010 that school bus fees violate the state Constitution. A class-action lawsuit is currently pending against Franklin Township School Corporation near Indianapolis, which attempted to implement a fee earlier this year by contracting with the Central Indiana Educational Services Center. That case is expected to continue next month.

Of the states that do allow districts to charge, the study found that districts are usually given the authority to determine whether or not to implement a policy and to determine the amount to be charged. In those districts, OPPAGA said they reported the fees are necessary to counterbalance budget cuts, but the study added that OPPAGA also encountered district representatives who are wary about legal concerns.




























Source: Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability

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