The following article is from the Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 edition of the Southwest Missourian, published in Cape Girardeau. It was included in the NAPT Dispatch electronic newsletter of Sept. 27, 2016.
Schools Face Transportation Funding Cuts;
How Much Is Unknown
Friday, September 23, 2016
By Lindsay Jones ~ Southeast Missourian
Recent cuts to the state budget are likely to be felt in local school districts, but to what extent is still unclear.
Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon said he needed to slash more than $59 million to balance the budget after legislators overrode 13 vetoes, including two tax breaks.
Along with funding for roads and agricultural interests, Missouri schools bore the brunt of the cuts, with $16.5 million pared from busing monies and $6 million in general school aid eliminated.
"Fortunately for us, that's absorbed by 567 districts (in the state), but whenever there are cuts, it does have a direct effect on our budget," said Neil Glass, assistant superintendent for administrative services in the Cape Girardeau School District.
Luckily, he said, it's early enough in the local budget year that adjustments can be made without too much trouble.
"It's easier than later in the year when funds have been allocated or spent," he said.
Although Glass is unsure how much the district will lose, spending will be limited to offset the hit.
The district's transportation budget is $1.2 million.
In nearby Scott City, superintendent Brian Lee said he, too, is unsure how much the state budget cuts will affect the district, but because it's small, it will receive even less than larger districts such as Cape Girardeau and Jackson.
"Anytime you cut funding, it hurts, especially in a small district where there's less money to go around," Lee said, although he did not have specific figures.
Regardless, he said the district will do what it always does: "We'll just go forward."
In Jackson, superintendent John Link said transportation is usually one of the first items to be targeted when cuts occur at the state level, so his district has become used to paying for student transportation with most of its own money.
Of the $1.8 million to $1.9 million set aside for transportation costs in Jackson, only about $500,000, or a quarter, is from the state.
"If they're going to cut someplace, transportation is the one place where that shouldn't impact student learning," Link said.
Superintendent Andrew Comstock of Perry County's District 32 said he knows the state budget cuts will affect local schools, but he's not sure by how much yet.
"It'll affect everybody," he said.
Not only will transportation money be reduced, but the foundation formula will shrink as well -- a familiar refrain in Missouri.
Because the district is being paid now from numbers it submitted last year, it could take time for the governor's cuts to become clear.
In terms of transportation money, Comstock said the formula used to calculate a district's share of state funding includes the number of children on buses, the number of routes, average daily attendance and other variables.
So this year, a priority will be in figuring out how to reduce bus routes and put more students on fewer buses, among other things.
"The greater efficiency you have, the more you get paid," Comstock said.
On January 18, 2011, a 6-year-old Callaway County, Missouri boy was run over and killed by his own school bus after getting off the bus at his home. A Missouri State Highway Patrol report on the accident concluded that the bus driver did not wait long enough after the student got off to clear the area around the bus before he set the bus in motion again.
One year to the day after the accident, the 78-year-old bus driver, who had pled guilty two months earlier to second degree involuntary manslaughter, was sentenced to four years in prison. However, the judge suspended the sentence, and placed the driver on five years' probation. He cannot drive any vehicle, let alone a school bus, and must perform 100 hours of community service, speaking to area bus drivers about school bus safety. The victim's grief-stricken parents did not want to see the driver spend time behind bars. Instead, they wanted to use the tragedy to educate bus drivers and riders on the potential hazzards so that no other family would have to suffer the loss of a child. Members of the victim's family said the case was not about revenge, but about preventing something like this from happening again.
The Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation (M.A.P.T.) in cooperation with the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) has produced a video about the North Calloway accident, entitled "DRIVING DISTRACTED...and then it happened."
M.A.P.T. wishes to thank the MSBA for allowing us to post a link to the video, as a means of educating school bus professionals and the general public of the possible tragic consequences of distraced driving.
To view the video, click here