Do you ride a bus to get to school? What would you (and your folks) do if the school buses stopped?
That’s an issue that kids, parents and principals are thinking about in Washington state, where the governor has put “eliminating school bus service” on a list of possible ways to save money.
Washington Governor Chris Greg-oire doesn’t like the idea, but here’s the problem: Right now her state is spending $2 billion more than it has each year. Eliminating buses to take kids to school would save $220 million.
Still, the idea is stirring up lots of debate. People are concerned that fewer kids would go to school if they can’t get there easily.
Washington parents were talking about the proposal at the bus stop recently. Debra Carnes, who was waiting for the bus with her fourth-grader, called the idea horrible — but better than cutting money going to the classroom. She wondered what impact it would have on the attendance of low-income and immigrant students.
“Our family, we’ll figure it out. But there’s a lot out there who would struggle,” she said.
About half of the nation’s public school children ride a school bus, according to Bob Riley of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.
States pay between 30 and 100 percent of the cost of student transportation in most places, including 67 percent in Washington state.
Riley says the cutting buses could cause problems:
●Safety may be affected if more students are walking to school.
●Greater traffic and pollution may result if more parents drive their children.
●Without buses, fewer students may attend.
Washington’s schools chief, Randy Dorn, says cutting out buses may be against the law. That’s because the state constitution requires that the government pay for basic education. Right now, providing transportation is part of the definition of basic education.
Other proposals include increasing class sizes, reducing the school year by a week and cutting full-day kindergarten. School administrators have been working for years on ways to reduce the number of kids taking the bus by sending kids to neighborhood schools.
In the meantime, the state is thinking about a future when many more kids may be walking to school.