Archive for Monday, February 12, 2007

Busing proposal may not roll

February 12, 2007


It sounds like a great idea.

Rep. Bill Otto, R-LeRoy, wants to reduce the distance - from 2.5 miles to 1 mile - that children must live from their school in order to ride a school bus for free.

It's an idea that Otto, a retired teacher, says would increase the safety of thousands of Kansas students who now have to walk to and from school each day.

And for the parents who don't let their children walk, it could mean fewer drives to and from school, Otto said.

But there is a downside. A multimillion-dollar downside.

Last week, the Kansas House Education Committee learned Otto's proposal would mean 90,000 more students would be eligible to ride the bus, costing the state $26 million.

And that price tag is why the southeast Kansas legislator thinks his idea faces a steep uphill climb in the Kansas House.

"Nobody really opposes it," Otto said. "It's just the cost."

Paying to ride

Currently, the state reimburses school districts for busing children who live 2.5 miles or more from their school.

Lawrence buses 1,653 students, including 305 ineligible students who pay extra to ride the bus.

Under Otto's proposal to reduce the distance to 1 mile, a total of 5,856 Lawrence students would be eligible for bus transportation paid for by the state.

Rep. Bill Otto is trying to allow more Kansas children to ride school buses.


That would mean some big changes in Lawrence, said Rick Gammill, director of special operations, transportation and safety.

"You would have to increase your fleet, your number of buses, your number of drivers, your number of administrators," Gammill said.

But the good news for parents is it would probably mean eliminating the need for the district's pay-to-ride program, he said.

An elementary student who lives 1.5 miles or more from his or her school, or a junior high student who lives 2 miles or more from school is now eligible for that program.

Under it, students pay $120 per semester, Gammill said.

Complaints last year by parents with several children led the school board to change the cost structure, beginning with the 2007-2008 school year.

Starting next fall, the cost per semester will be dropped to $100 for the first child, $50 for the second child and to no charge for any other children in a household, Gammill said.

"The maximum would be $150 per family in a semester or $300 per family for a year," he said. "That's quite a savings."

Southwest Junior High School eighth-grader Yarko Senyuta peers out the windows as he rides the bus home from school Wednesday afternoon. The Lawrence school district has more than 1,600 students who ride buses, including more than 300 who pay to ride because they do not live far enough from school to qualify for free transportation.

Southwest Junior High School eighth-grader Yarko Senyuta peers out the windows as he rides the bus home from school Wednesday afternoon. The Lawrence school district has more than 1,600 students who ride buses, including more than 300 who pay to ride because they do not live far enough from school to qualify for free transportation.

Uphill battle

Gammill said Lawrence's district would comply with any new state mandate regarding busing. But he was skeptical about how far the idea would get.

"I think everyone agrees it's a great idea to lower that mileage consideration. But the big question is where do we get the $26 million to do it?" Gammill said. "I think the money is certainly going to be the major factor."

Although the cost may put the brakes on the bill, Otto plans to keep pushing for the bill. He also tried it two years ago.

The reason? Walking to school can be dangerous for some students, he said.

"We have kids who have to cross highways and interstates where there are no sidewalks," he said. "As long as I'm here, I'm going to keep filing it. I'm going to keep trying."


mom_of_three 10 years, 8 months ago

A correction to the article - Junior High students who live 2.5 miles from their school, not 2.0.
We live 2.48 miles from South Junior High and I have to pay for my kids to ride the bus home (although they aren't riding the bus at this moment). (I take them to school). Kids who live in the Prairie Park area are in a situation where they can't walk home safely.
The T could be utilized more now, if they ran more bus routes nearer the schools, during dismissal time.
My kids from South and LHS talk to 23rd street to take the bus to a vicinity near our house.

imastinker 10 years, 8 months ago

I was also about 2.5 miles from school as a kid. I lived next door to the bus driver and was not allowed to get on the bus with her in the morning. I always thought that was unfair, but what can you do?

My folks usually gave me a ride, but they were self employed, allowing one of them to be late to work every day and leave to pick me up. Sometimes I rode my bike and sometimes I walked - and that never hurt me either.

Truthfully - all kids ought to have to pay to use the bus. It's not a right - it's a privelidge (sp??), and everyone knows where they are in relation to a school when they move there. It's a shame to punish the people who live nearby, but not right next to a school, but reward the people who live real far out.

Amy Bartle 10 years, 8 months ago

Yes let them walk as long as the route is safe. But it is unrealistic to expect a 5 year old kindergartener who has asthma to walk 2 miles to and from school. Last year we were able to "pay to ride" and it was a ridiculously high fee. This year, the district took away the option to "pay to ride" for our neighborhood. As a result, we have more cars on the road and more children riding bikes and walking on busy Harvard Road.

Rationalanimal 10 years, 8 months ago

If there is an obesity problem among our kids, and our policy is to cut spending and emissions, having our kids walk to and from school for 2.5 miles is a no-brainer. If parents want to enable their kid's obesity, they can drive them to school themselves. The school district and taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize a lazy kid. Show me a lazy kid and I'll show you a lazy parent. A mile? Come on.

Moderateguy 10 years, 8 months ago

For reference, it's about 2.5 miles from 6th and Iowa to Free State High School. It's also about 2.5 miles from 23rd & Iowa to 23rd & Harper. How many of you big tuff adults are willing to walk that far to and from work each day? Now, how many want somebody's young gradeschooler walking that far? I'm not saying anything about who pays for it or whether or not the parent should be responsible to drive them. I'm just saying it's silly to tell the kids to "toughen up and lose some weight."

purplesage 10 years, 8 months ago

You can't use the T because the equipment does not meet school bus standards adopted by the state.

Regardless of where the cut off is, there will be those who barely miss it and will feel slighted and the rule will seem arbitrary.

In our society, kids are, like the rest of us, too sedentary. However, there are real issues of safety and well-being. In a past era, moms were home and could walk the kids to the bus or to school. And it was safer to take that walk.

Let them play on the playground instead of sitting in the bleachers in the gym before school!

costello 10 years, 8 months ago

I walked to school when I was a kid. And now, at age 45, I'm obese! ;-) I'd walk to work, but it's 31 miles.

Even as a kindergartener, I walked. A group of kids in my neighborhood all walked together. I remember being told where the "neighborhood moms" were on each street, so we'd know where to go for help.

KsTwister 10 years, 8 months ago

A few wind turbines and electric buses would eliminate much of the money needed like New York.

SoundMind 10 years, 8 months ago

We live north of Clinton Parkway and our kids attend Sunflower - so they have to cross Clinton Parkway to in order to walk (and they'd love to walk, they've asked us to allow them several times - they're older elementary).

But the one time we allowed them to walk by themselves, my husband followed them in his truck just to make sure they made it okay. They get to CP, look both ways, and begin to cross on the green light, when the crosswalk light tells them it's okay. And some idiot almost mows them down coming south on Inverness and turning west on CP.

I'm sure there are a lot more kids north of CP who would walk to Sunflower if a crossing guard were provided.

budwhysir 10 years, 8 months ago

Just another 10 cent fee added to the toll road would take care of this in no time at all.

Rationalanimal 10 years, 8 months ago

Moderate: "How many of you big tuff adults are willing to walk that far to and from work each day?"

You were clearly a bus-rider growing-up.

LawmomX3 10 years, 8 months ago

The issue isn't the distance, it is where they have to walk. I'm not letting my child walk down 31st street to get to school. The other option of course is to walk further up to 23rd and across but there isn't sidewalks the entire way. Make it safe to walk and then my child can walk otherwise provide a bus.

budwhysir 10 years, 8 months ago

So, if we had the kids that live too close walk say a half mile in the opposite direction of the school, they could shorten the walking distance plus, they could keep the bus routes the same.

Good thinking eh???

This way the kids dont have to walk so far and the bus drivers dont have to go pick them up but the kids arent walking as far as they would if they walked to school and then we can fill the buses in one spot and kids dont have to walk to school.

Also, if we rearange the school week to longer hours, we could take advantage of daylight savings and make the school year shorter, therfor not having the busses drive so many days out of the year.

These two ideas would cause a savings rather than an expense

budwhysir 10 years, 8 months ago

How about using the T. At 25 cents a ride, thats only $1.25 a week and the bus company makes money too

justthefacts 10 years, 8 months ago

When I was 7, in 2nd grade, I walked 3 miles each way to school every day. When I got older, and had other schools, I walked even further. It did not kill me nor endanger me. I can, however, remember huddling behind the random house or tree as I trudged my way during bitter wind and blowing snow. Again, it did not kill me (nor did I have a weight problem). These days, my parents would probably be investigated for child abuse for making me walk (never mind my mom being at home with 3 children still not in school).

"Gimme gimme gimme" is getting old. I tend to only listen to it from people who've already given away all they have - to other people - and guess what, they aren't the ones wanting more and more from other people's pay checks!

I think it's past time for us all to start living within a set budget. For families or the government - stop finding more things to buy, and start saving money!

justthefacts 10 years, 8 months ago

P.S. Aren't crossing guards volunteers? If so, there's your answer. Have kids WALK and you (or someone you recurit) can stand guard, FOR FREE, if you have worries about the crossing safety for some road!

J Good Good 10 years, 8 months ago

Nope, crossing guards are not volunteers. In fact, they don't let people volunteer because of liability issues.

Rationalanimal 10 years, 8 months ago


"The issue isn't the distance, it is where they have to walk. I'm not letting my child walk down 31st street to get to school."

The issue then becomes YOU getting your child to school b/c YOU won't let them walk b/c YOU don't think its safe. YOUR options are moving to a house more suitable to YOUR safety concerns or driving YOUR kids to school.

Taxpayers shouldn't have subsidize YOUR subjective views on YOUR kid's safety.

salad 10 years, 8 months ago

Umm..unless you only go to school one way, that works out to $2.50/week. Not a bad idea though.

budwhysir 10 years, 8 months ago

I was just reading into the article that everyone is concerned about walking to school. Walking to school is a school problem, walking to home is a home problem. Thanks for supporting my idea though

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