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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Playing Devil's Advocate

So over at the Times' comment section on their transportation story, well it turns out a lot of you are lazy, whiny parents.  Or so many commenters think. 

I would like to ask Enrollment a couple of questions. 
  1. What percentage of SPS enrollment goes to neighborhood schools?
  2. What percentage of SPS enrollment stays in their region?
  3. What percentage of SPS Special Ed has to be bused out of their region for services?
  4. What percentage of Option School students are from the region the school sits in?
  5. As the only all-city draw, where do the students at Cleveland come from?  Are they all on Metro?
I'm being lazy because I suspect this is info somewhere at the district website but don't feel like looking.

Are we really running that many kids all over town?

Now some questions to you (I am NOT advocating these; I'm playing devil's advocate):
  1. Should busing be a core district function?
  2. Should parents at Option schools be responsible for their child's transportation given they made the choice not to be at their neighborhood school (this only applies to people outside the Geozone)?  I can hear the argument coming that if parents at Option schools had to provide the transportation, only better-off parents (or two-adult families) could provide that transportation, thereby cutting off lower-income students.  Is that the only reason?
  3. What would you give up in busing for better bell times?  
  4. Should both Spectrum and APP students be provided bus service?
  5. If you work outside the home, how do you manage pick-up and drop-off?  
  6. What time do you normally get home from work?  Eat dinner?  Get the kids to bed?  I ask these because honestly, I don't think most people can get home and have dinner by 6 p.m.,  have some time with their children (even if just to do homework) and then get them to bed by 8 p.m. to get them up by 6 am.  
Just asking.

61 comments:

RosieReader said...

Excellent questions.

RosieReader said...

Excellent questions.

Lori said...

"What would you give up in busing for better bell times?"

Well, I'll start. Quite frankly, we have nothing left to give after the changes that were already made this year.

My child's bus has 69 kids assigned to it. Our initial stop was 2/3 of a mile from home but was changed in January to 1/2 mile from home. So we leave at 830AM to walk to the stop so our child can be at school by the 925AM start time. Lincoln is closer to our house than Lowell was, yet the total commute time is longer this year!

Now, I'm not really griping (any more) about this year's service. It's a lot less convenient than the prior year when the stop was 3 blocks away, but we're making it work. It was great to see them tweak the route and give us a closer stop mid-year. And we have it good compared to other families because we are not the first stop of the morning.

But, there are no efficiencies left to be wrung out of our route. And I'm certainly not willing to pay a user fee for the current level of service nor for a later start time or a stop even further from home. Half a mile is far enough to walk given that that's just part of the total travel time.

Moving our start time to 945AM or 10AM is madness. Pure and simple madness. Working families cannot manage a start time this late.

TraceyS said...

1. Should busing be a core district function?

Yes.

2. Should parents at Option schools be responsible for their child's transportation given they made the choice not to be at their neighborhood school (this only applies to people outside the Geozone)? I can hear the argument coming that if parents at Option schools had to provide the transportation, only better-off parents (or two-adult families) could provide that transportation, thereby cutting off lower-income students. Is that the only reason?
3. What would you give up in busing for better bell times?
4. Should both Spectrum and APP students be provided bus service?

I can't answer these three questions until we see actual data about current costs. I may be willing to make tradeoffs in these areas, depending on the numbers.

5. If you work outside the home, how do you manage pick-up and drop-off?

I am currently at home, but I am typically in my car for over an hour and a half just doing pick up and drop off at two different schools. We are not eligible for bus service at one, and we cannot utilize the bus at the other due to time conflicts with the other kids. On days that the kids have after school activities, I am in the car for sometimes three hours. If/when I return to work, we will have to use after school daycare, and drop some of the kids' activities. Or wait until they are both in middle/high school, and they can be at home by themselves for a couple of hours.

6. What time do you normally get home from work? Eat dinner? Get the kids to bed?

We typically have family dinner around 7pm, except on soccer practice days, when it get pushed to 8pm. Though we try to get the kids showered and in bed by 9am, most days it is closer to 10. And they do their homework directly after school most days, because I am home and can make them do it. When I was working and they were in after school programs, homework did not always get done.

Right now the start time difference for my kids' school is only 25 minutes. If we had a two-plus hour difference in start times (may happen next year to us), then our home life will become a mess. Not sure how we will manage that schedule, to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Parents who chose an option school should have to get the kids there themselves.

Busing should be a district function, but with limits. You choose to go outside your area, you have to figure it out. You made a choice. You may have many valid and excellent reasons for that choice, but still, figure out the transportation yourself on that one.

My biggest peeve with all this is my kids are in high school. Which doesn't use yellow buses. So WHY ARE THEY MOVING HIGH SCHOOL START TIMES?

"Frustrated"

Steve said...

You know what I would love? Put some sort of tracking device in the backpack of one kid on each bus on a single day (or have a parent ride), and create an map showing where all of these buses are traveling. The resulting animation would be amazing to see, and I think we could all learn a lot from this. There has to be a smartphone app for this. Has the District ever done this?

Catherine said...

What would you give up in busing for better bell times?

I have a much younger cousin who lives in Ohio. When she was a senior in high school two years ago, the district cancelled all fall sports because of lack of money. ALL FALL SPORTS including FOOTBALL in OHIO. Many people were unhappy about it (my cousin's graduation was full of sad speeches because of lost memories), but it protected all students' academic learning, and the community accepted it.

If you work outside the home, how do you manage pick-up and drop-off?

I'm currently at home. I thought about going back to work next year, but honestly don't know how we'd manage it. I have one in our neighborhood elementary, one in APP, and one who will be in preschool. If the current proposals go through, my partner will probably have to change his work schedule, too.

What time do you normally get home from work? Eat dinner? Get the kids to bed?

We have little kids, so we eat at 5:45 (my husband is able to go to work early so he can come home early). My middle child is in bed by 7:15, and the other two are in bed at 8:00. I can't imagine having to deal with a 10:00 start time. That would be a nightmare for us.

SP said...

Another Devil's Advocate question:
Please explain why Seattle's bus cost per student are so extreme compared to the other districts used in the Action Report graph for 2010-11 (Everett $979, Tacoma $1,058, Spokane $1,165, Seattle $1,650)? Is there any other large district in WA with such high costs per student or did they just choose to include the lowest cost districts to prove their point that bus schedules had to be changed- urgently, with no advanced discussion from Operations meetings Dec- April on this issue?

Please note this $1,650/student cost is after SPS had the neighborhood assignment plan in place (and grandfathering has been considerably reduced). Does any one know what SPS cost/student was previously?

SP said...

(con') part 2
re: bus costs/student for SPS
The referenced graph was for "Total cost per weighted student (weights reduced for partial week transport such as 1,2,3 day shuttles)."

So, does this cost per student include average for ALL the kids in the district, or just those who qualify & take the bus? What is the actual cost/student for only those students who actually use SPS buses (yellow bus or Metro & special transport)? What % do not use/qualify for the bus system with the new neighborhood plan?

Anonymous said...

Not really interested in various people's pickup regimens. The role of soccer mom is well established and it's a crazy, often unrewarding shuttle service. But that's the best case scenario.

The fact is that if you have widely disparate start times between any programs or grade bands...or if you start school very very early or late... you will have families that will handle it by letting their kids roam the schools/playgrounds for an hour or two until they can be transported elsewhere...or you'll have kids, including 6 year olds, bussed home and then alone. I see it every single day at my kids school.

Too many families have no $$ for daycare, no family or neighbors to turn to, and the necessity of being gone for work. And, they don't have $$ for transportation beyond district-provided buses.

You can Ed Reform the hell out WA state and those classroom changes won't amount to a hill o beans unless our system isn't undermining families (with zero resouces or time) in the areas of safety, nutrition, health and sleep.

How can anyone in anyway involved in the administration of public education not understand this? And using that lens, the shoddiness of this whole transportation proposal makes me angry. Not for my family. For the lack of value of whole child development that is unflatteringly on display right now from JSIS staff and the board.

Savvy Voter

Melissa Westbrook said...

1) some high schools DO have yellow bus service for ELL and Special Ed students. So that's why some of the schools have this issue.
2) you cannot drop off kids early at school. Now having said that, what will parents do? The school will send you a notice saying no kids on the playgrounmore than 15-20 minutes before school but what's a parent to do? Also, the teachers contract will have to be negotiated because this is a labor issue about who will watch those kids who come early.

That could get ugly if frustrated parents don't know what to do for a half hour of time when they need to drop off the kids in order for the parent to get to work on time.

Someone said...

@Steve - actually, the district has the ability to know where each bus at a given moment - they are all equipped with transponders.

And they know where each bus is "supposed" to go and when it's "supposed" to get there. It's the unpredictable variables that throw things off - kids late out of class, early dismissal at one school that causes upwards of 20 other routes to be impacted - disturbances on the bus (kids fighting etc) -the so called "undeliverables" - when a parent is supposed to be there at at stop and isn't - traffic, weather, substitute drivers.

So they know WHERE it's going - just not always WHEN it's going to get there, for a lot of valid reasons.

Doesn't excuse all the current brouhaha, but it's not as clearcut as maybe we'd all like it to be in reality.

TraceyS said...

As a shuttling soccer mom, I agree with you wholeheartedly, Savvy Voter. Our family will find a way to work around a crazy schedule, but those with fewer resources will not have an easy time of it, that's for sure.

I grew up in such a family (single working mom, three kids, no money for daycare, no significant familial help), and we were dropped off at the playground and left alone at home at a young age. It was a crap deal, to put it bluntly. I am thankful for the resources I have now that allows me more flexibility with my own kids.

I do wonder about how this schedule will affect families with fewer resources. If I am chafing at these changes, I can only imagine the impact it will have on them.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I both work outside of the home, and so we pay for before and after school care. We are lucky that our school offers an on-site childcare facility, I know a lot of schools don't. I honestly don't know what we'd do if we didn't have this option, I know our local Boys and Girls Club has a massive waiting list.
Northend Parent.

Patrick said...


Should busing be a core district function?

Yes, at least for elementary students beyond 1 mile, option schools, programs not available in the neighborhood school, trips where there's no reasonable Metro service.

Should parents at Option schools be responsible for their child's transportation given they made the choice not to be at their neighborhood school (this only applies to people outside the Geozone)? I can hear the argument coming that if parents at Option schools had to provide the transportation, only better-off parents (or two-adult families) could provide that transportation, thereby cutting off lower-income students. Is that the only reason?

How many option schools would survive if no busing were available? For many families, no busing means it might as well not exist.

What would you give up in busing for better bell times?

I don't understand why bus time or bell times are an issue for middle school and high school. Aren't all these kids taking Metro already? Why can't the middle schools and high schools set whatever bell times they want? I'd like to know what percent of high school students get yellow bus service.

Our family could do without busing entirely. We have a bus assignment, but about 90% of the time we drop off at school. That's mostly so the car will be where I can catch Metro to it after work and do the afternoon pickup in time.

Should both Spectrum and APP students be provided bus service?

Sure, on the same basis as other students who don't have an appropriate program within their walk zone.

If you work outside the home, how do you manage pick-up and drop-off?

Now we have a bell time of 8:15, which is early enough that we can drop off and get to work on time. Afternoons is after-school care.

What time do you normally get home from work? Eat dinner? Get the kids to bed? I ask these because honestly, I don't think most people can get home and have dinner by 6 p.m., have some time with their children (even if just to do homework) and then get them to bed by 8 p.m. to get them up by 6 am.

Home about 6:00. Dinner about 6:30. Fortunately after-school care provides homework time, so we usually don't need to spend time on it. Home supplemental math about 7:00-7:30, bedtime prep starts at 8:30 and includes reading aloud time, lights out at 9:30. I wake up at 6:20 and wake the child at 7:00. So she's getting about 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night. We'd have a lot of trouble getting everything in if it all had to be moved up an hour.

Besides the cost of after-school care would have to go up if they were taking care of students an hour earlier in the afternoon.

Jon said...

SP has a really good question, why are Seattle's cost per student so much higher? At $1,650 per transported student, it is 50-60% higher than comparable districts (and nearly $5/trip). Why are transportation costs so high for Seattle?

mirmac1 said...

Someone, yes Bob Westgard mentioned a web service that would allow parents to see where buses are at any given time.

Whatever software or service we buy, I hope it's efficacious and reliable, and integrated with our enrollment and finance functions.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jon (and others) yes, I saw those figures on per pupil transport costs among districts and wondered the same thing.

It's also akin to the question of why renovating/remodeling Seattle schools is so much more expensive than other districts. (Setting aside historical rebuilds which are a subject themsevles.)

Maureen said...

Seattle does have a higher proportion of special needs children enrolled than most Districts. It would be interesting to separate out the gen ed transport per student numbers by District and see how they compare. Also, our Advanced Learning model isn't necessarily typical. In the past at least, APP actually nets positive for SPS because of state funding but the COST is high. It seems like those kids should be pulled out of the equation as well (to get a meaningful # for comparison), especially if they are showing up on the cost side but not the revenue side. Note I'm not blaming Sped or APP for higher costs, these are kids we need to serve.

Are the numbers of buses by school level and Tier available anywhere? Are we allowing very few HS yellow buses drive the whole system? Would it make a difference to offer HS yellow buses that deliver at Tier 1 time and pick up at Tier 3 time? Set bell times to to pick up at Tier 3. HS kids either don't need the supervision that K-8 do or if they do (Sped) they could really benefit from an extended day. Let their IAs come early, work a standard day, schedule classes they don't use IAs for at the end of the day. (Wouldn't work for all programs, but a significant number?)

Anonymous said...

i don't know much about this issue yet and am getting caught up - is there anything said about PREDICTABILITY? say i have a job, and work with my boss to be able to come in at 9:30, or figure out a neighbor babysitting swap, is there any promise that every year I won't be having to change things around again the week before school starts when bell times are typically final, and usually do fluctuate??

as a side note, what is the policy for breakfast supervision - how early can parents drop kids off at school to have breakfast, or is that only allowed too within the 10-15 minutes allotted for elementary supervised playground (and is there such thing for middle/high school - early library hours for homework, etc)?

-diane

dj said...

What I would like to know is how many kids currently are getting bus service to a neighborhood school that is not their assignment school. I am suspecting that the number is higher than you would think. There are a huge number of busses that deliver kids to my neighborhood school and a pretty small percentage of enrollment from my neighborhood. I wouldn't be surprised if the district is backfilling some unpopular schools with transportation services.

dj said...

Also, the way I deal with the fact that start times have been changing every year and my two elementary-school kids start and end school at different times is that my husband and I both have flexible work schedules and we also have a nanny. I am sure every working family in this city has those advantages, ha.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dj, that's my question as well. Are we really on a neighborhood system? What would be the level of neighborhood school participation where the answer would be yes? 60% 70% 80%?

Also, the middle and high schools do NOT want kids to there earlier either. You can't have kids roaming the halls or sitting in the library when the librarian is trying to get his/her prep work done.

I think kids who have breakfast at school can come a half-hour earlier but that's it. I see this as a huge problem if you have 20, 30, 40+ kids hanging around on a playground for 30+ minutes before school. But whose problem will it be? The schools or the parents?

Anonymous said...

DJ, that was certainly the case with Madrona in the past, but not necessarily the case today. Dunno. But one could ask that question of staff and no reason they shouldn't/wouldn't give a straightforward answer. Of course, solutions will need to be wider and more varied than this 1-2 school issue, even if this is a problem in the first place.

EdVoter

EdVoter

Anonymous said...

The problem is the "tier 3" scenario. They are forgetting about families with traditional 9-5 work schedules.


Worried

Anonymous said...

I am willing to give up "milk run" neighborhood bus stops and move all buses with the exception of special education to "community bus stops" only. No more weaving through the neighborhood, picking up a kid at his house, or, as is often the case, stopping at stops where no one gets off. The use of community bus stops reduces costs and speeds up bus times. It is win-win. We happily traded our child's hour-long bus ride this fall for a move to community stops. This move in January helped bring the bus route from 1 hour down to 30minutes.
- eliminate neighborhood stops

Anonymous said...

I would like the board and transportation to stop blaming special ed kids for their out of control costs. They GET more revenue for having special ed kids in the district. And those populations should not bear the brunt of the district not being able to handle their financial duties. I understand that we have a complicated district and lots of problems to solve, but don't blame it on certain vulnerable populations and then make them suffer. It's messed up. And I say that with a kid in gen ed who does not ride the bus.
-Just fed up

Maureen said...

As a start, I want to see a spreadsheet with nine rows and four columns:

Rows:
K-5 Gen Ed
K-5 Special Ed
K-5 APP
MS Gen Ed
MS Special Ed
MS APP
HS Gen Ed
HS Special Ed
HS APP

Columns:
Number Transported
Cost of Transporting
Reimbursement from State and US
Net Cost to SPS to Transport

alxdark said...

So far as I know, Spectrum kids aren't bused. I drive my student to school after that was ended last year.

Dorothy Neville said...

"Seattle does have a higher proportion of special needs children enrolled than most Districts. It would be interesting to separate out the gen ed transport per student numbers by District and see how they compare."

This separation of gen ed and special ed transportation costs over time was shown at the Feb Transportation Oversight Worksession. I don't have time to look for the presentation link right now. Should be there, or email board office and ask for it.

dj said...

EdVoter, I don't think it is just Madrona (although I think Madrona probably does get transportation services for out-of-neighborhorhood kids and I am not going to be the person to go investigating that and possibly costing kids at that school their transportation). My younger elementary school kid, however, attends a neighborhood school that isn't our neighborhood school and got a letter assigning him to a bus at the beginning of the school year. He doesn't go to Madrona. I don't think this is just one or two schools.

Anonymous said...

A very honest comment from the transportation story in the ST that sums it all up for me (and I didn't write it):

"After 8 years in the district, I find myself in a tiny, underfunded but wonderful parochial school. Thank God almighty, I am free at last. I never thought I'd be here, but like so many of my former colleagues, this is where we find ourselves. It's not even the decisions the district makes, it's HOW they make and implement them. I could tell horror story after horror story. And each story involves administration. For those of us who have these stories, we know our feelings of anger and futility are real. This is just one more in a long line of inept and ill-conceived plans that force parents (and teachers like myself) out of a district they long to support and defend."

--enough already

Eric B said...

Maureen- I'd add one row (HS Metro) and one column (# of buses), but that info would be a great start.

Lori said...

eliminate neighborhood stops wrote, "I am willing to give up "milk run" neighborhood bus stops and move all buses with the exception of special education to "community bus stops" only."

I thought that had already happened. Are there neighborhood elementary schools that are *not* on community stops this year?

Charlie Mas said...

I have a question about those "average transportation costs". How were they calculated?

Were the costs calculated in exactly the same way for all of the districts?

Are these costs before or after the state reimbursement?

Is this the average cost per student based on ALL students, whether they ride buses or not?

Is this the average cost per student based on the students who have transportation available, whether they ride or not?

How do the ORCA cards for middle and high school students figure into this? What do they cost? Do they raise or lower the average cost?

Are the costs associated with the taxi service calculated into this? What would the average be without the taxi service?

I don't mean to sound unduly suspicious, but numbers can be selected to show almost whatever you want them to show. I want to know what these numbers really show.

Anonymous said...

Lori - neighborhood schools have been getting what are called "neighborhood" stops - more frequent than "community" stops given to larger area draw schools. At TM this year, my child's bus had a combination of neighborhood stops for some and community stops for others. It took an hour until January, when they changed some additional stops to community stops. The ride time was reduced by 30 minutes, but not until January. We all should be on community stops to save costs & time.
- eliminate neighborhood stops

Scrawny Kayaker said...

I'm originally from the Denver area, so I keep somewhat abreast of the Denver local news. I was reading the Denver Post comment section yesterday from a story about the state legislature punting a bunch of bills at the end of the session 'cause the Rs wouldn't quit delaying a vote on civil union. You'd probably guess that Colorado is more conservative than Washington, but the comments on the Seattle Times site are substantially more vitriolic, radical and/or ignorant. Sad.

SP said...

Dorothy is correct- check out the presentation (and minutes) for Feb. 8th Oversight Work Session: Transportation. Some of Charlie's questions are covered in the presentation.

1st, it is strange that the Board approved the "Transportation Service Standards 2012-13 (complete with specific bus times for the Tiers) one week before this transportation work session was held.

2nd- in the minutes, note that "President DeBell asked that a fiscal analysis accompany any proposed changes in bell times in the future." Since bell times are directly tied to bus arrival/departure times, any changes for either of these would then require a "fiscal analysis" (definitely none was included in the Board Action May 2nd).

The PowerPoint presentation has some interesting pages, but only part of what we are asking. For example, p. 13 has total 16,495 K-8 students for 2011-12 routed, but not the district K-12 total, and not broken down any more than that.


Page 21 shows the 2009-10 cost per expected student rider for Seattle $777 and annual cost for student on public transit $222, so how to explain the $1,663 "Total cost per weighted student" on page 22?

P. 22 also includes more district total comparions, including only $626 for Northshore, $675 Bellevue & $711 Lk. Washington. The graph shows a total of approx 20,000 students in SPS being transported by all the various methods, so the $1,663 per student is just for students getting transportation (and not district total).

It is difficult to differentiate the color codings, but on p. 22 & p.23 it appears that SPS has either 1/3 or 2/3 bus passes (at the lower $222/year) so it is even more difficult to understand how we end up with an ave. cost per student transported at $1,663?

Finally, all of the data seems to come from OSPI's Annual Financial Statements & Rider Reports, so if someone wants to check out more of this---

SP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Someone said...

@Charlie- the ORCA passes cost about $2 million or so - don't remember right now if it was $2.2 million or...

I believe some of the cost differences are because SPS is reimbursed less than other districts by the Feds - but that's word of mouth, so may be not totally accurate.

Maureen said...

The former head of transportation told me last year that SPS earns a small profit (i.e., State Reimbursement - Price of Orca cards > 0) for every student who rides Metro. This may or may not be true for next year.

Someone, do you think your $2million is the price of the Orca Cards? From what I have been told, SPS does not receive a discount from Metro for the cards (that seems CRAZY to me.) If so, $2mill/$45*10 months = 4,444 kids who get Metro passes, which seems reasonable.

Maureen said...

Do corporations get discounts from Metro when they provide passes for their employees? I have been told, that SPS does not give bus passes to it's employees (or provide them as pretax perks even). CRAZY.

SP said...

(ah, my post just evaporated!)
Anyway, referring to the Feb. 8th presenatation again:

p.16 Major Contracts page lists First Student (bussing, etc) at $19.7M, and Metro (Orca) at $2.6M.

Then, p. 21 lists Annual Cost for Student on Public transit $222. (thats only $22/mo if for 10 months?)

Thus, $2.6M/$222= 11,711 students? Are there really that many MS & HS students living >2.5 miles from their schools getting Metro passes?

Someone said...

Yes, I believe it is that the cost of ORCA cards- it's something like $36 a student for this year, according to one doc I found - there appears to be more than just those more than 2.5 mile from school who get them though, but it's unclear.

Anonymous said...

On the special ed issue - first of all, around 60% of the kids are in resource room, (also called "enhanced resource room" or "ICS" - integrated comprehensive services). These special ed kids have no special transportation entitlement, and attend schools based on the NSAP. Around 40% of the special ed students are in programs and are assigned on a willy-nilly basis, including a bunch of preschoolers. The assignment plan here is "any seat for any butt anywhere". All of these students have something called "door-to-door" on their IEPs - which mandates home pickup with a handoff between adults at both points in the trip. Because of the "any-seat-any-butt" plan, there are often no bus routes available to transport the butt. In that case, taxi's have to be sent to transport students. Probably about 1/2 of these students are sent in a region close to their home, the other half are sent anywhere. Many schools send students out of region because their programs are full, even filled with students from other the same regions they are sending their students to.

-reader

Erin said...

Let the kids walk to school! It's better for their minds and bodies. If they live over 1.5 miles, they can take the city bus with a parent/guardian and this would not affect school bell times. My 5 year old walks over 2 miles a day, even in the rainy winter, and is fine with it. Healthy, lifelong habits...

Get a clue said...

Erin- I'd be happy for my kid to walk to school. Clearly, you don't have a job and can spend time dawdling around the hood. Either that or you are letting your 5 year old walk 2 miles alone - doubtful. Why don't you come walk my kid to school so he can get some fresh air and exercise since I unfortunately have to go work. Better yet, you could be the "driver" of walking bus routes helping out several families.

Badger said...

The school district would have an extra $7.3 million to fund transportation if they had sold MLK Elementary to Bush School. Instead, they sold to a church that promised to use the property to support youth education. It seems that a better way to support youth education is to sell surplus property to the highest bidder and use the money to avoid jerking around students yet again over when and how they get to school.

Anonymous said...

Lakeside, U-Prep, Evergreen and a bunch of other private schools provide Metro Custom buses to their schools for around $1,100 year or around $100/months. WAY LESS THAN THE SPS COSTS for TRANSPORTATION. And, these bus routes are from many disparate locations, including service routes from the east side.

If SPS can't figure out how to provide bus service, it should just get Metro to do it ... and pay for the kids' Orca card to ride these custom buses. If Metro can do it for the privates, surely it can do it for the publics and at a fraction of the cost of the transportation department.

-Give it to Metro.

Anonymous said...

If my choice is a 10:00am start time or paying for bus service, I would rather pay for bus service.

Anything But 10

Erin said...

Apparently, I came across in my last comment as a rich, stay-at-home mom insensitive to the needs of working parents. For the record, I do work, and with my husband and I pulling in a whopping $1700 per month salary my kids qualify for free lunch. However, given that SPS is considering this crazy bell schedule in no way will your child being bused guarantee you getting to work on time. How about investing in before and after school programs instead? Then, kids can walk/bike to school (healthy), or, if they live too far they can take Metro with a parent/guardian (or drive if the parent chooses). A lot of schools already have before and after school programs and, as they are licensed by the state, parents who need it can get financial assistance from DSHS to send their kids there.

Anonymous said...

The only consistent thing about SPS is how expensive and confusing it is for this district to do anything. And they want me to vote for the $1 Billion + Levies? Ha, ha, ha! Please, convince me some more.

ostrich

Anonymous said...

Transportation is not provided to families outside of geo-zones for Choice Schools. (We are 3.5 miles from our school and are responsible for our own transportation.) I commit 10 hours a week commuting to our school (including parking, walking my child to school, etc.) at a cost of about $16/week in fuel.

Families who are at a poor-performing school can opt-out (NCLB-related) and attend any school and my understanding is that they are eligible for busing.

Does SPS realize that they can look outside of Transportation to cut $1M? What they are doing is inefficient.

Also, so much research points to later start times for high school students and later HS start times reduce accidents, improve performance.

--Signed,

Aghast

Maureen said...

(To clarify re Option ("Choice") Schools: transportation is not provided outside the "Middle School Attendance Area." "Geo-zones" are the (supposedly small) areas surrounding the Option Schools whose residents have preferential placement at the Option School. People in the Geographic Zones SHOULD be able to walk to the school. In my opinion if they can't then the GeoZone is too big.)

Meg said...

It's possible that other districts simply offer much more restrictive bus service. However, given the sloppiness of the plan presented, I strongly suspect transportation didn't make sure that the comparison of per-student transportation costs was actually comparing the same group of cost segments.

Not having been there when the "analysis" was done, I can only guess. So this is a guess. I think SPS administrators took what they knew to be SPS total transportation costs (taxi service, basic transportation, SpEd, APP, Title I opt-outs, etc - and possibly also administrative costs) but a) only did basic transportation costs for the other districts and b) didn't note exceptions like although APP routes are expensive, the district both piggybacks other students on those routes and gets additional revenue from the state, so that those routes are actually slightly profitable.

A little late, but just a thought.

Also, in 2008, SPS spent $1.1M on taxi service - and at the time, at least, taxi service was ineligible for reimbursement under the state transportation plan.

dw said...

Anyone still reading this thread? Perhaps I'll post in a fresher thread later, but this post by ostrich deserved a response.

ostrich said: The only consistent thing about SPS is how expensive and confusing it is for this district to do anything. And they want me to vote for the $1 Billion + Levies? Ha, ha, ha! Please, convince me some more.

This is both a problem and an opportunity.

The district only really pays attention to a couple things. Money and pride. And frankly, sometimes I wonder about the pride.

It's a problem because if enough people get sufficiently frustrated with the district to fail this levy, we're going to have some serious problems with capacity moving forward. (an aside, if it fails, I'd like to know what the opportunities are as far as repackaging for a revote in the near future)

But this also an opportunity. When a HUGE clusterf like this ridiculous set of transportation proposals comes up, it's an opportunity for the community (particularly if the media gets onboard) to attach the frustration to an action, i.e. voting No on the levy. Do I want this to happen? Not really. I'd much prefer that the district gets their head on straight and comes back to the table with a realistic proposal that doesn't infuriate huge portions of their constituents. Perhaps something along the lines of Eric B's proposal.

But it always seems like there has to be some kind of negative consequence for the district before they'll pay attention to families. If this levy is perceived to be threatened over a measly potential $1 million bus savings plan that enrages thousands of families, I think the proposal will disappear faster than MGJ after she was fired.

Let me reiterate that the $1M savings is only a guess. The previous guess at transportation savings didn't exactly work out as planned.

This is not a compartmentalized problem affecting dozens or even hundreds of families. When you start messing with start times you're affecting thousands or even tens of thousands of families. A lot of people have signed the opinion poll already, stating their displeasure, the displeasure just needs to be attached to an action to be effective.

mirmac1 said...

No explanation has ever been offered (as far as I can tell) for why half the busses that were going to be dropped this year, were retained.

Anonymous said...
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mirmac1 said...

In any well run enterprise, staff can produce "planned" versus "actual" in a format with sufficient detail for managers to see what went wrong and how these things impacted costs.

It stills burns me up that our ex-Transpo boss tried to lay the $2M budget bust on some unaligned developmental preschool start times. Nice one, Bishop, lay it on the SpEd.

Produce these management reports and post them on the website.

Jan said...

Touche, Badger!

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