I am responding to a letter in Monday's Bradenton Herald regarding the Manatee County School District providing bus transportation for charter school students. It must be stated up front that there is no state regulation that mandates school districts provide bus transportation for charter schools.
Five of our 12 charter schools want to contract with the district to provide bus transportation next year for almost 1,300 charter school students. Under the current contract, charter schools pay approximately $367 per student per year to the district for bus transportation, while the actual cost to the district to transport each student is approximately $774 per year.
While the five charter schools would pay a combined total of just over $470,000 next year under the current contract, the actual cost to the district would be more than $991,000 -- a deficit cost to the district of more than $520,000.
The district would incur this deficit even though the state provides each charter school with approximately $366 per student per year for transportation costs.
In addition, scheduling bus transportation for charter school students creates complex challenges for the district and strains already tight transportation timelines.
At a time when the school board is exploring every possible option to restore the district's fiscal stability, this issue must be discussed with the board.
The district's Transportation Department surveyed 12 other school districts in Florida, including surrounding school districts, and found that only three of the 12 provide transportation to charter school students, and even those districts were reevaluating their ability to provide those services.
The school board has scheduled discussions on this issue to better understand how providing bus transportation to charter school students impacts the overall district.
The district is planning to provide three options for transportation to its charter schools at Tuesday's board workshop and meeting. The board will act on these options. I hope the facts provided in this response shed some light on this complex but critical discussion.
Stephen Valley, Director of Communications, Family & Community Engagement, School District of Manatee County