JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Bayless School District’s transportation department is among those affected by statewide budget cuts — the district eliminated school bus service for several hundred students to prevent making cuts elsewhere in education.
"It certainly was not an optimal decision, but we balanced it against larger class sizes, which we really think diminishes student achievement," Jeff Preisack, board president, told The Associated Press (AP). "It was a cut that while painful, avoided more damaging cuts like layoffs or increased class sizes."
(The district also cut back on building cleaning, did not replace a librarian and required employees to contribute more for their health insurance.)
State agencies and lawmakers have battled a budget crunch for several years. State workers have been laid off, state holidays have been eliminated and social service programs have been reduced. Moreover, this school year, Gov. Jay Nixon cut a substantial amount of state aid for school buses and transportation.
Missouri schools are receiving $83 million to reimburse them for transportation, which is just more than half of the $156 million that they got last year for busing students. This year's funding is the lowest over at least the last two decades, according to data from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, AP reports.
Nixon will present his proposed state budget this month. He told AP that he expects to recommend increases in basic state aid to school districts and is hoping to avoid reducing it. He also said that state funding for buses and transportation is on a "watch list" for potential budget cuts.