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It's Your Money: Skyrocketing busing costs

Posted at: 03/04/2013 4:43 PM
Updated at: 03/04/2013 5:24 PM

The ability for city parents to choose their kids' schools has lead to skyrocketing busing costs. Nearly $60 million a year for the city school district.
   
Mayor Tom Richards says the way the district transports kids to school just isn't working anymore. The mayor says the school district is spending too much on busing, 80% of it is paid for with your state tax dollars. Out of about 30,000 students in the district, 28,000 take the bus.

News10NBC confirmed that the district spends nearly $60 million a year on busing. That's one-tenth of its entire city school budget and breaks down to about $2,100 per child.

News10NBC learned that many kids are bused right past their neighborhood school to one further away, just so parents make sure their kids get a ride to school instead of having to walk. Rules require busing only for students who live more than a mile and-a-half from school. Kids who live closer than that have to walk.
So many parents choose a school further away from their neighborhood school just so their kids can ride the bus.
   
City school board president Malik Evans said, “We're spending way too much on transportation. You can see that just by driving around every day in the city. Kids live in one neighborhood where they're only a stone's throw away from a neighborhood school, and they're taking a bus across town out of their zone.”

Mayor Tom Richards spoke last week to downtown property and business owners.

Mayor Tom Richards, Rochester Mayor, said, “I'm trying to be careful here. The school district has enough problems.”

The mayor used strong terms to criticize the city school busing policy.

Mayor Richards said, “They really need to change the way they transport kids period. They're spending $70 million in the city school district busing kids all over the city. And spending huge amounts of money, a lot of time, and it's not working any more.”

Evans says city busing was part of effort to give parents a choice.

Evans said, “We made a lot of exceptions for people. If they were able to make a compelling case why they wanted their children to go to a school outside of their neighborhood zone, we allowed them to do that. And as a result, one became two and two became 10,000. The number just exploded.”

News10NBC found a grandparent who was picking up her grandson early Monday. They live closer to another school in their neighborhood, but he takes the bus to School No. 19.

Jackie Singletary said, “It's a lot of money, but wherever your kid and the parents are comfortable with, especially if they're familiar with the teachers and doing well in that school.”

Rochester City School Board President Evans says the district would still give parents choice, but enforce neighborhood zones. That means kids would have to go to school within the zone in which they live.

Superintendent Vargas is asking the state to allow the city to bus kids who live closer than a mile and-a-half. He and Evans believe that many more families would the choose neighborhood schools and that would save on fuel costs. Buses wouldn't have go across town  so much.