Safe, reliable transportation is a critical part of an effective education system, but districts in Ohio are struggling to fund their busing operations.
Back in 2013, Ohio Association of School Business Officials Associate Executive Director Barbara Shaner appeared before the Ohio Senate Education Finance Committee to advocate for an increase in school transportation funding.
“The availability of safe, reliable transportation services is crucial for student access to a quality education,” she said. “In some cases, it can mean the difference between a student’s lifelong success and…a lifetime of challenges with no hope for becoming an educated, productive citizen.”
To Shaner’s point, transportation services — usually busing — not only help get students to school on time, but also keep students safe. In the five years preceding Shaner’s testimony, one in 446 urban students and one in 1,473 suburban/rural students had been struck by a vehicle, many on their way to or from school. In Ohio’s eight most populous counties alone, more than 1,250 students — most of whom had no choice but to walk busy urban streets to get to school — were struck by a vehicle between 2008 and 2013.
Five years later, little has changed. Speaking with WKSU after the state government passed its latest operating budget last summer — a budget that slashed nearly $100 million from statewide school transportation funding — Shaner was forced to reiterate the same point she has been trying to get across for years. “If you can’t get [students to school], obviously you can’t have them in the classroom,” she explained. “We see that as almost as important as the things that we would put in the classroom.”
Funds for the Bus Go Down and Down
According to Cleveland Scene, more than half of Ohio’s public school districts will see their transportation funding fall as a result of the new budget. In the Aurora City School District outside of Cleveland, for instance, transportation funding will be cut in half, from $700,000 for the 2016-2017 academic year to $350,000 for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Ohio districts hoping to provide the same quality of transportation and education overall have little choice but to make up their funding deficits by levying new local taxes. “The State of Ohio continues to push the burden on school funding from the state level…to the local taxpayers,” laments Aurora City Schools Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli. “Eventually, we’ll have to look at more local revenues to offset these kinds of losses.”
Local property taxes already account for nearly half of all public school funding across the country, and expanding this share will only deepen the disadvantages that poorer families face: wealthier districts have a far easier time offsetting state and/or federal cuts to education spending, since their property values are often significantly higher than average.
As things stand, Ohio students living in districts offering limited busing are 1.8 times more likely to be economically disadvantaged and 17 times more likely to dropout of high school — multipliers that will only increase as transportation services diminish.
Making the Most of the Situation
While accurate recordkeeping is always important, it takes on an added significance in fragile fiscal times like these. Ohio’s school funding formula provides districts with resources on a per-student basis, which means that underreporting its enrollment can deprive a district of precious dollars to which it’s legally entitled.
With Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform, school districts can rest easy knowing that their student data is accurate, organized, and validated at all times. With costs climbing and funding flatlining, districts need a tool like CheckPoint to ensure that they secure the resources they need to provide a high-quality education to each and every student who walks through their doors.