Update: from the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio, an article about the costs of busing charter school students costs 44% more than regular district students.
In part, the extra cost comes from having to bus charter school students
longer distances, sometimes with fewer students on the route, the
journalists found. Around the state, school buses traveled an extra
15,600 miles every day in 2012 to accommodate charter school students,
which adds up to about an additional $85,000 every day. That extra cost
is largely footed by the urban districts in which most charters operate,
said the report.
“Transportation is probably the second or third largest issue for all
public schools,” said Ron Adler, president of the Ohio Coalition For
Quality Education, a school choice and charter advocate. “It’s a problem
not only for charters but it’s a problem for districts. In our view,
whatever it is today, it’s going to be worse next year because of the
cost of fuel, because of the state funding.”
Now, Ohio is not Washington state but many of the issues like state funding and fuel costs are valid here as well.
End of update.
Bob Westgard, director of Logistics, gave the presentation.
He said there had been 6,000 revisions in Transportation since day 117 of this school year. He said they had given out 7,000 Orca cards and had to replace 3,000 of them. (Sadly, no one asked what I was wondering which was, who paid for the second card? That's a high rate of loss.)
Booking and approving filed trips is almost completely electronic now. They also have 'increased walking school bus program for Title 1 schools with a UW grant."
He mentioned that there is a Transportation school team that goes out to visit schools. I hadn't heard of this before - anyone ever met any of this staff at your school? He said there were six coordinators.
Westgard also stated that 94% of the buses have two cameras and they want to have three per bus. Director Patu asked why and he said one is to see what the driver is doing, and then one for the front and one for the back of the bus.
President Peaslee stated that in the past there had been a number of empty seats on the buses and that was one of the cost issues. She then noted the cost of transportation which is about $32M. She seemed quite surprised at the costs.
There was some FTE benchmarking from other districts in the presentation. For example, SPS has 32 FTE while Anchorage has 126. But SPS' FTE is district staff and doesn't include drivers while Anchorage has its own staff of bus drivers. Some Board members thought this a confusing mix of data.
Director Blanford asked if people could phone in bus driver issues. Westgard stated there was a phone number on the website for people to call in. Director Blanford asked if it was on the side of the bus and Westgard said no, but that was a good point.
Director Patu asked about buying our own buses. Westgard said they considered that but you need housing for the buses, maintenance and then more HR costs. Pegi McEvoy said some districts did a blended model where Sped service is contracted out but general transportation is in-house.
A key change may be coming. President Peaslee asked about the policy for distance to high schools which is currently 2.5 miles. Westgard said they were working with Metro to get it down to 1 mile (but Metro is not there yet.) He did say that it WILL be 2 miles next year. He said it wouldn't hurt for parents to contact Metro about this change.
There could be an issue with charter schools and transportation. Director Peters brought this up and wondered about it. Westgard said that he understood the RCW that SPS does not have to provide transportation but charters in the district can contract with them.
However, there does seem to be some confusion. The Washington Policy Center reported this:
If the House-passed budget formula were used, transportation funding
for charter schools would be based on the transportation budget divided
by all the students in the district, resulting in a much smaller
per-student amount. Seattle has about 50,000 students, which, divided
into $33.2 million, would result in a charter school funding amount of
only $664 per student, or about $500 less than what other public schools
Last week, this disparity was brought to the attention of the top
budget writers in the House and Senate, Senator Andy Hill (R-Redmond)
and Representative Ross Hunter (D-Bellevue). On Thursday they made sure
charter school students receive fair treatment by adding the following
“Per student allocations for pupil transportation must be calculated using the allocation for the previous year to the school district in which the charter school is located and the number of eligible students in the district, and must be distributed to the charter school based upon the number of eligible students.”
I knew that charters could receive funding for transportation via the charter law but this now specifies an amount. It's unclear to me whether the state takes on more financial burden for transportation or divides those existing transportation dollars down further.