District Concerned about Learning Community Transportation Costs!
The Papillion-La Vista School District (PLSD) has identified transportation as a concern with the Learning Community (LC) law. As the District continues to work hard for changes and revisions in the law, this is one of the areas that will be addressed.
Under the LC law, students can apply to open enroll to any school in the 11 LC school districts. Open enrollment is granted based on space availability. Transportation will be provided if the student’s attendance in a LC school helps to create a balance in the socio-economic student demographics among the Douglas and Sarpy school districts. Therefore, all students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch are eligible for transportation. Any student who does not qualify for free and reduce lunch but wants to attend a school where the free and reduce lunch rate is above 40% may also apply for free transportation.
The impact of this law and the cost associated with providing free transportation, are listed below.
The PLSD is transporting 67 students for a cost of $400,000.
Cost per student is approximately $6,000 with little ability to reduce costs through economies due to nature of the transportation being required.
LC transportation costs added $400,000 to PLSD budget this year (= cost of 7 teachers for 67 students). This is a 76% increase in transportation strictly due to the LC transportation.
State aid reimburses school districts for this expense. However:
- The only amount reimbursed is what was estimated over a year ago. For the PLSD this is is only $120,000.
- The state aid pool is what funds schools in the entire state. New money is not added to state aid because of LC transportation. Therefore, the money coming to school districts throughout the state is reduced by the amount being spent on LC transportation.
The cost of transportation will vastly increase due to an increased awareness. Looking at current numbers of transfers within the PLSD only and the number of students that qualify for free and reduced price meals, there is potential 112 more students for 2011-2012 or $650,000. This does not include additional requests from outside the District.
Transportation dollars to LC will come out of available state aid dollars now going to the other 91 counties’ districts. This year, the total amount coming from state aid is $1.5 M. The PLSD alone is anticipating the cost of transportation to double for next year.
According to the LC and the Nebraska Department of Education, once a family has “self identified” as “qualifying” for free and reduced lunch, they are eligible for transportation for the rest of their school career. No proof is required, nor is there any expectation that they ever applied for free and reduced lunch.
The PLSD cannot serve students with large buses due to small numbers and the distribution of the students all over Douglas and Sarpy County. Students and routes are widely dispersed, this creates rides for kids at the 60-75 minute one way level. Mini vans and other vehicles are used for transportation.