School Districts Get Growing Tab for Student Transportation

Years of deep cuts in state student transportation funding saddle school districts with more of the cost to bus students to and from school safely. These ongoing cuts could be made permanent if Georgia lawmakers adopt a proposal for a new formula to distribute state money to districts.

Georgia requires its 180 districts to provide transportation to all special education students and to any others who live 1.5 miles or more from their schools. Some districts also bus students at school system expense within 1.5 miles due to safety concerns, such as a lack of sidewalks or students’ age.

The state contributed less than 17 percent to districts’ transportation costs in the 2013-2014 school year, according to calculations using Georgia Department of Education (DOE) data. That amounts to $126 million of the $749 million districts spent to bus students. This is part of a two-decade trend that leaves districts shouldering a greater share of the student transportation tab. State money amounted to 33 percent of districts’ transportation spending in the 2003-2004 school year, down from 49 percent in the 1995-1996 school year, according to information from the State Education Finance Study Commission.

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