AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio taxpayers are largely footing the bill for public school buses that are driving farther to transport students attending the state's charter schools, a newspaper investigation found.
State officials have forced traditional public schools to traverse their cities to pick up and deliver children to privately run charter schools, often while cutting transportation to their own kids, according to the Akron Beacon-Journal (http://bit.ly/1pE9zR1 ).
The newspaper analyzed statewide data and determined that it costs about 44 percent more per child to deliver the charter school students door to door.
A child attending a traditional public school and transported on a district bus cost on average $4.30 per day in 2012. For a charter school student, it was $6.18 — or $1.88 more per day.
Since then, 22,000 additional students have been enrolled at the state's charter schools. Also, the state has stopped helping school districts buy new buses, and other state transportation assistance has failed to keep pace with costs, the investigation found.
Charter schools can receive state subsidies to provide their own transportation. But the majority — 391 of 406 charter schools — are putting that obligation onto local school districts.
School districts can't keep up with the demand for equipment and logistics software, so they're turning to private bus contractors. Those contractors on average charged districts $5.45 per child to go to a traditional school and $12 to a charter school.
The difference is the distance — charter school students on average must travel more than two miles, or twice as far.
When a school determines that a student's travel requirements are excessive, it can pay a stipend to parents. Those have tripled for charter school parents since 2005, from 1,732 to 5,365 in 2012, but fallen by a third for children attending traditional schools, from 1,243 to 814.
Charter school advocates know it's a big expense for school districts, but there is little evidence they have offered much support in the legislature.
"Transportation is probably the second or third largest issue for all public schools," said Ron Adler, president of the Ohio Coalition For Quality Education, a school choice and charter advocate. "It's a problem not only for charters but it's a problem for districts. In our view, whatever it is today, it's going to be worse next year because of the cost of fuel, because of the state funding."
Ohio's bus fleet — district and privately owned — traveled 15,627 miles farther each day in 2012 because of longer routes for charter students. That equates to an added expense of $84,817 daily (about the price of a new bus) and $15,267,089 yearly.