from Buncombe County Schools
State funding for pupil transportation just two years ago was cut by $10 million across the state, regardless of student ridership counts which take place the fall of the school year. This means that Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools are operating with less funding to operate the combined school bus fleet compared to previous year’s transportation budgets.
A high student ridership count EVERY DAY, MORNING AND AFTERNOON during the week of Oct 1-5 is CRITICAL if the two school systems are to avoid losing even more funding in the future.
Joe Hough, Buncombe County Schools Transportation Director has a clear message to parents. “If a child is going to ride a school bus to and/or from school during the course of the school year, it is very important that he/she ride as many days as possible during the week of the count, October 1-5. Otherwise, changes in service such as combining routes, increased multiple runs, and a reduction in the number of buses operated, may be required next year if ridership and/or transportation funding is insufficient to justify our current service schedule.”
According to Hough, approximately 750,000 students ride more than 14,000 school buses each school day in North Carolina. In Buncombe County alone, over 16,000 students typically ride the bus on any given day. But while the cost of drivers’ salaries, fuel, repair parts, and tires needed to operate a bus is about the same no matter how many students are on board, state funding is determined by three factors: the total number of school buses operated, total expenditures, AND, a very important factor, the number of students riding. The school transportation budget hinges on this student count; the state will not provide transportation funding for a child that does not ride a bus.
That’s not the whole story. “Driving students to and from school puts an unnecessary financial burden on families, dramatically impacts traffic adjacent to school sites, and affects air quality when thousands of cars idle in line to pick up or drop off students,” says Buncombe County School Superintendent Tony Baldwin. “Sure, many students would prefer door-to-door transportation service from their parents, but it just isn’t practical for families OR for school transportation departments in these tough economic times.”
Adds Hough, “Parents should know that the school bus is the safest form of surface transportation. It is our goal in pupil transportation to provide safe, reliable, and efficient transportation service to our state’s most valuable resource: our CHILDREN.”