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."
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."