Not all doom and gloom

Frank Di Giacomo, Publisher
Posted on October 1, 2009

As we monitor media outlets from all over the country to see what they have to report on pupil transportation matters, we’ve been coming across a lot of bad news lately.

A back-to-school story topic that popped up in many newspapers is about how the local school district has scaled back its transportation services this year.

In some cases, walking distances have been increased. For example, children might have to live more than two miles from school to be eligible for a bus ride, whereas before it was 1.5 miles. In other cases, the number of bus stops has been significantly reduced.

Funding troubles
A report by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) earlier this year gave an overview of what districts are facing. Seventy-five percent of administrators who responded to the survey described their districts as “inadequately funded.” That percentage increased eight points since October 2008, when 67 percent of administrators described their districts as such.

The AASA study asked what actions districts were taking in response to the economic downturn for the 2009-10 school year compared to the 2008-09 school year. Many of the findings are unsettling. They include:


  • The percentage of districts increasing class size more than tripled, from 13 percent in 2008-09 to 44 percent in 2009-10.
  • The percentage of districts laying off personnel quadrupled, from 11 percent in 2008-09 to 44 percent in 2009-10.

    On the pupil transportation front, the percentage of districts cutting bus routes and availability rose from 14 percent in 2008-09 to 23 percent in 2009-10.

    Finding the positives
    While that last statistic may seem gloomy at first glance, we can also use it to look on the bright side: More than three-fourths (77 percent) of the districts that AASA surveyed are not making transportation service cuts this year.

    A reader poll on our own Website covered similar terrain. We asked pupil transporters how their 2009-10 operations budget compares to last year’s. As of this writing, 69 percent of respondents had said that their budget was the same as or larger than last year’s.

    The Brownsville Herald in Texas offered an example of a district that’s not trimming bus service. This year, the newspaper reported, Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) will spend $15.4 million of its $493.1 million budget on student transportation. That’s an increase of 7.7 percent from the 2008-09 school year, when the district spent $14.3 million.

    BISD is even providing bus rides home for students who stay for after-school tutorial sessions. Interim Superintendent Brett Springston told the Herald that school buses are part of the district’s success.

    My point here is not to downplay the fiscal crises that so many school systems are experiencing, but rather to provide more perspective on the pupil transportation picture.

    For districts that have had to make transportation cuts, Peggy Burns’ article in this issue gives excellent guidance on identifying and fixing potential legal issues related to cost cutting.


  • Related Topics: budget cuts

    Comments ( 0 )
    More Stories

    Great Ideas Abound on the Bus

    Great ideas come in many forms. What all of these innovations have in common is that they promote the role of school buses in student achievement.


    School Bus Driver Teaches Students to Fish

    Gary Kelmer of New Jersey invites students he transports to a local pond on spring break to teach them how to fish and get them to spend time outdoors. He has offered the activity for over 20 years.


    VIDEO: School Bus Danger Zone Awareness

    This dramatization from Georgia, based on a true story, teaches students about safely boarding and exiting the school bus — including what to do if they drop something.

    Two bills that are intended to address school bus safety in the wake of a fatal crash in November have advanced in the Tennessee House of Representatives. One would raise the minimum age for new school bus drivers, and the other would require "a restraint system" on school buses.

    Tennessee School Bus Bills Advance

    A bill that would raise the minimum age for new school bus drivers in the state passes unanimously in the House. Another bill that would require restraints on school buses passes a committee vote.

    Planning has begun for the 17th National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) in 2020. Murrell Martin and Bill Loshbough are shown here leading a discussion at NCST 2015.

    NCST 2020 Planning Begins

    Planning for the 17th National Congress on School Transportation is now in the works, with committee members being re-established and selected through this summer.


    Video File Securement Solution

    The SecuraMax automated video management software solution is designed to help users securely upload, manage, protect, and share video files.

    Be the First to Know

    Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!