Transportation for Private School Students

We are considering a request to provide transportation for a few students that attend a parochial school that is on our normal bus route to middle/high school. The idea presents no significant logistical issues, and seems to be within the terms of our transportation contract. There are other considerations however; There are other private schools in our SU, although not on our bus route. Are we subtly undermining our support of public education? These parents are taxpayers, and voters, etc. I’m interested in hearing from districts that are doing this, have done this, or have considered and rejected the request.

  1. I think this is like renting a school room to a religious group for a religious service. The school is a public building, and by extension the bus, and you should probably do it. But. like renting a room, you should have a policy and procedures in place (like- only if on our school routes, available seats, behavior – must abide by bus rules or forfeit the ride, etc) prior to allowing the activity. We have SU- wide transportation, and schools are billed based on per-pupil cost per mile, so a cost per child could be calculated, if desired. You might want to check with your insurance Co. as well.

    Our school buses are the greatest public transportation system in the state, and probably should be more accessible to taxpayers – if the Supervisory Unions haves rules, policies, and parameters in place for integrating others into the system.

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  2. Our district does this for an independent school right on the route and it seems pretty common sense. At least for me, I don’t think our charge is to promote public education as much try to assure all our town’s kids get a quality education in the most cost effective manner. If this means some kids are better served at an independent school and it is no extra expense to help these families with transport, that seems good public policy and good service to our taxpaying public.

    There may be a small question here about a parochial school, and church state issues, but it seems our job is to serve our taxpaying public more than to promote our public schools, which by any measure, cannot effectively serve every single student in our community (I would cite merely drop out rates or NECAP scores as a couple indicators that not every child is successful in our public schools).

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  3. My personal response: Doing a favor for children who are simply going to school is only a positive thing and the right thing to do. Though they (or their parents more likely) have chosen a different school, they are still members of the community and your neighbors. Denying this request would only strengthen their preference for non-public schools. I can see no basis for denial. I do see your point about setting a precedent, but it should be easy to deny requests that would change/lengthen the bus route on the grounds of cost and time.

    I am new to my school board and have no experience with such a request to draw on.

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  4. Our school district does pick up students from a private school. They are ride the respective buses to our high school where they transfer onto one bus and are taken less than a mile to their school. We have never had any troubles with this. And their parents pay our school taxes, so why not? This is family choice. Public school should not be so insecure about loosing pupils for this reason. Focus on giving the better education.

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  5. No, if they want their child to attend a private school, they need to provide their own transportation. That opens the ability to loose public school revenue and decreased enrollment.

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  6. No, I do not feel it is undermining overall support to public education by simply permitting a few students to ride the existing bus that goes through or by their house area. These parents are taxpayers and local citizens and have a right to this very small benefit to allow their child busing, as long as it is along the existing route; since they are not getting any other direct value out of their education tax dollars and their child is not causing a burden to the local public educational budget.

    This also provides some limited interaction time with students of another school, who are their neighbors and that may even impact a future decision to switch to public schools to be with other friends in their neighborhood?

    I am glad someone posed this question, but since I am very new to our school board, I am not aware if our school district our local high school has been faced with this question yet.

    I agree with other comments posted that a formal agreement would need to be signed by the parent’s of a private school student, as well as the student so that he/she is fully aware of the busing rules of conduct and procedures. Plus, this agreement must clearly stipulate that space is limited to availability needs of the public school students, now and in the future. As far as concerns of who is liable; in case of any injury or potential bus accident, the busing company and ultimately the school district would be liable for any and all riders on the bus, just like I am covered as a potential parental chaperone on a busing field trip, when I ride the bus (in my opinion).

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  7. I’m in favor of schools working together. In this case there don’t seem to be any costs to be incurred so there is no real economic transfer to the other school.. Would there be liability problems?

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  8. Not long after the a local private school opened, they requested that their students who lived close by be transported by the district. They are located technically across the street from the public school.

    After much discussion and weighing all the scenarios, we felt it would be best to not take this on. If I remember correctly, liability for non public students and fairness to other local students going to other private schools and not getting transported, were the main reasons.

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  9. My first thought is that it’s a reasonable request, but in kicking it around here in the office, one of my colleagues rightly pointed out that one of the ‘benefits’ of a public education is the bussing that gets students to and from. Simply put, if you want a free lift to school, we provide that already, but to our public school. By choosing a private school, the family has also inherently chosen to take on the transportation of their children.
    I would argue further that while public education doesn’t necessarily ‘fit’ everyone perfectly, by choosing a private school, families are making a conscious choice to put their energies in to a parallel school system, and that those energies may well be better spent pitching in at the public school to make it a better place for all children. In Vermont in particular, our schools really are community resources, and we’re always open to new, bigger, better, or different approaches to learning that ensure the best outcomes for all of our kids.

    That’s the choice I’ve made, both as a parent and a school board member – I’m working to ensure that the school we have is the one we want, instead of shopping around for one that’s closer to my ‘ideal’ and then feeling bad about paying for both.

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  10. No our district has never done that before. Our bus service charges for everything and every stop so it wouldn’t be “free” even if it was on the way. It would be an extra expense. Even a stop “on the way” is changing the route and contract agreement.
    My question to the school board members and bus contracting service is “who is financially responsible for the safety of those children that do not go to your school?” If the child was injured or or had any sort of incident while on the bus who is responsible for it?

    If the parents didn’t feel the public school should educate their child, why provide them with a free ride?

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  11. I think this is like renting a school room to a religious group for a religious service. The school is a public building, and by extension the bus, and you should probably do it. But. like renting a room, you should have a policy and procedures in place (like- only if on our school routes, available seats, behavior – must abide by bus rules or forfeit the ride, etc) prior to allowing the activity. We have SU- wide transportation, and schools are billed based on per-pupil cost per mile, so a cost per child could be calculated, if desired. You might want to check with your insurance company as well.

    Our school buses are the greatest public transportation system in the state, and probably should be more accessible to taxpayers – if the Supervisory Unions haves rules, policies, and parameters in place for integrating others into the system.

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  12. I know in our area we bus for the private school, however the school itself pays for their busing, it isn’t a huge amount but helps to cover the costs of busing. Even though they are close by it still would not be a place that our buses would go without there being a private school there.

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  13. A majority of our behavior issues happen on the buses. It is the largest time period of unstructured and least supervised time of the day. By allowing children on the bus that you have no discipline over you are asking for problems. Also if here is a bus accident, are there any problems with insurance or parents from the private school suing you?

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  14. I feel that the financial support for transportation would be appreciated. Although, as we all know a lot of behavior problems on the bus. I would really like to get the opinions of the bus driver’s and consider how the follow through regarding problems on the bus would be addressed before throwing support behind it.

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  15. In my experience, the cold hard fact is students will go where the transportation takes them. Most of our kids went to a local high school until a bus was arranged going to another one where the majority now attend. Five years ago, a bus driven by a local resident who brought his bus to his residence nightly, started to take a few students to a local academy from his home. Five years later, the route has grown and twenty five of our students now attend that academy (only two or three attended before the bus). It certainly seems that it is the RECEIVING school’s responsibility to provide transportation NOT the SENDING school. Sure some of the folks asking to use the bus to take their kids to the parochial school are local taxpayers but, once the lid has been opened to the transportation box it will be hard to say no to parents requesting transportation for their kids to other schools. Our school (K – 8) doesn’t budget for the transportation of our secondary students ( except for special ed. students ) all of whom have free choice in which school they attend. They are transported via parental arrangement or by the receiving school. AND…the elephant in the room, separation of church and state in all matters especially when it comes to using taxpayer funds

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  16. I as a board member would vote to drop the students off at the parochial school. The facts state that it is on the normal route. As you stated the parents are taxpayers and they contribute to the public system as much as their next door neighbor and because they choose to pay extra to send a child to another school should not exclude them from some of the tax dollars they have spent for the public sector. Being that this will not alter the publics financial position, and no party is harmed, I vote to drop the students off.

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  17. The board member should consider reviewing the Vermont Supreme Court case of Chittenden Town School District v. Department of Education, 169 Vt. 310 (1999) and get an opinion for legal counsel.

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  18. As long as this is along the bus route, and is already within the terms of our transportation contract, I see no problem with this. These are taxpayers and I would like more support when it comes time to vote on issues of importance to our school. Since we are a small community I do not feel we would be undermining our support of public education, because they may need to attend our school in the future.

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  19. We have our own bus fleet and do transport to two public tech ed centers. We do have other students that attend a private school but they supply their own transportation. We have never had a request for this in the years I have been on the board. If the schools are on the regular bus route and times are not conflicting, it might be an item for consideration.

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  20. You have a seriously slippery slope in this situation. I think with the best of intentions you are opening up at least 2 possible issues: transportation to other private schools may reasonably be requested in the future and support of parochial education with public $s could also become problematic. I don’t think I would do it no matter how reasonable it sounds at the outset.

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  21. I have no factual basis for my response…but… I think you’re looking for trouble. I personally would like to see this done, as you said, taxpayers are paying for the bus (including parochial parents) but I suspect you will be in trouble from some group for not keeping church and state separate. Our district does not have busing..so we haven’t encountered this situation.

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  22. Normally the VSBA keeps the Member to Member page anonymous, but the following response included a piece of an actual school policy. I am copying into the body a section of Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union policy #3100 Transportation which deals with this issue. The complete policy is on available at http://www.svsu.org:

    Bus routes will be established for the needs of SVSU Districts and the transportation needs of their students by the Superintendent or his/her designee in conjunction with the busing contractor.
    However, students who are eligible to attend public schools within the SVSU but who attend private schools located within the SVSU geographic area may be provided transportation on a space available basis, up to the legal limits of the vehicle assigned to that route. These students may be eligible on a space available basis for transportation from a designated bus stop to the public school being served by that route.

    Annually, during the month of June, the Superintendent shall publish notification in the Bennington Banner warning all private schools operating within the legal boundaries of the SVSU to submit names and addresses of all students attending those schools, so that said students may be incorporated into bus routes and schedules pursuant to section #5 above. Student lists must be submitted to the Superintendent no later than July 15.120

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  23. If you do it for one, you need to do it for all regardless if it is on the route.

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  24. I feel it should be looked at case by case. I don’t have a problem with helping out the community. We all ready do this for day care places by dropping off children at their door. YES

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  25. The first step is to assure that there is no Vermont law, rule or case law that applies. If the Board has the option, I would not support funding transportation for a religious school. It seems to me that parents who choose to send their children to a religious or other private school must be willing to pay for the costs, including transportation.

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  26. On the question of transporting students who attend a parochial, I am opposed to this action. This provides support for parochial schools with public funds. This could also create a domino effect with other students within the same district requesting transportation. This is a slippery slope that we don’t want to get on.

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  27. This has never come up during my tenure. We’ve had lots of discussions about the extent of our bus service – but only for students coming to and going from our school.
    As a matter of interest, I can tell you how this discussion would go here. Everyone except me – :-) – would say never. I would say why not? They pay taxes, the service is available, doesn’t really cost us anything, is a nice thing to do and will build goodwill at budget-voting time. I would, however, suggest going further and getting getting legal advice on liability, precedent, ability to cancel the offering if more private groups begin to ask (sooner or later all of those stops WILL cost money) and so on.

    If it’s a small town and the impact is negligible it seems like a good idea. They’re all neighbors. Perhaps a token fee….it does represent a cost savings to the parents who don’t have to drive to the parochial school. A small fee might also head off complaints about the separation of church and state – and you know that’s going to come up.

    Good luck with this one.

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  28. My answer would be Voucher/School Choice.

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  29. We are in the business of education and should not be involved in the transportation or religion business. By law we are required to provide education not transportation.

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  30. I believe it would be both inappropriate for taxpayer funds to be used to provide transportation for a private school and a dangerous precedent as well. Once this was supported, could you reasonably deny other organizations similar access to transportation services? That said, I could envision a situation in which the private school paid the SU to provide transportation services under a contractilities agreement that recovered SU costs. I would not enter into any such an agreement without first obtaining advice from your SU legal counsel.

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  31. For me the question is the open access of the school in question. If the service can be provided without additional expense and the school is accessible to all, need-blind with an equal opportunity, no discrimination admissions policy, then I see no issue to providing basic transportation support for another school choice. I do not think that aiding transporting to alternative schools will undermine our public schools, but do feel that we must maintain the values of a public system providing fair access to all students. Using public funds to provide transportation to schools that do not abide by these principles and other regulations central to our public nature would, I think, be a real problem.

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  32. We provide transportation to the local Catholic School on a “SPACE AVAILABLE “ situation on our normal routes. We have been doing this for many years. I know our neighbors in New York provide bus transportation to ALL Religious schools and even provides the books to the students too.

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  33. If one of these children have an altercation with a student from your school, you could be held liable for not assuring safe passage to that student.

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  34. I can not imagine that adding private school students to our public school runs could be a bad thing, as far as I know parents that send their children to private school don’t pay any less in taxes for our school budgets than parents that send to the public schools. I personally would never interpret this gesture as a way of not promoting public education. I would see it as promoting community and all education at the same time! This is just a personal thought.

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  35. We had a problem like this around a decade ago!! There is a charter school just below where our buses are stored . We chose not to bus those kids even though we went right by the entrance to the school . Our reason for denying the request was as follows:
    We had several kids going to parochial schools in surrounding towns. We felt if we bused the charter school kids the parents wanted us to bus their kids to the parochial schools also. So we chose not to bus them! BUT the another local school district chose to bus their kids to charter school and they still do !!!!
    My question around this issue is === What about the Constitutional question of Separation of Church and State???

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  36. Our district has not had this question presented to us, and we have no parochial schools in our town. However, I can say that every student who attends a parochial school is in effect costing the district over $8,000 (the per pupil amount given to each district for each “equalized pupil”). If even one student were to withdraw from the district to attend a parochial school because transportation is now available, where it was not before, then it is no longer a “cost neutral” decision. Our district started sending a bus to another local district to accommodate students who have free choice about which high school (and now middle school) they attend, and saw our tuition numbers increase significantly, way more than enough to pay for the bus service.

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  37. This is not something our school has been asked to do or consider. It seems pretty cut and dry to me. There is no way I would even consider this for our school district as it would be public funds used to support a private religious school. Also, if you do it for one school you have to do it for all.

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  38. In my humble opinion that is a can of worms because even though it is not “out of the way”, it opens the door for folks that ARE out of the way to say “Why can’t we get some of that?” I’m not sure we’ve had that issue in my district or not, certainly not during my tenure on the Board, but I would have to vote that down.

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  39. Although superficially, this seems like a very neighborly idea, I would be very reluctant to allow this for a variety of reasons primarily the perception of tax dollars supporting parochial education. The other reason is the one you mentioned which is the erosion of public education. While you may be allowed to do this under your bus contract you expose yourselves to the other issues. In my opinion, if your community does not think this is an issue, well, that is an issue in itself.

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  40. If the question 1) Creates no logistical issues and 2) Is within the terms of the transportation contract, why not do it? Providing a service that benefits taxpayers and voters should garner goodwill, not be controversial. Additionally, why would you consider your mandate to support public education only? Are not taxpayers, voters, and board members primarily interested in the education of children? To support only the public school in spite of other alternatives seems limiting and isolationist. Don’t the private schools also participate in after-school programs, particularly sports? If you have confidence in your school system, it should benefit from contact with other schools and other kids.

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  41. As a taxpayer… NO, these parents have chosen private education and with that comes the cost and responsibility of transportation.
    As a member of a public school school board that has just cut a bus route to save monies and protect curriculum, I think not. It may seem to be a nice thing to do this year, but think of the precedent set that may not only effect your future, but that of other SUs in the state. I would hate to see a mandate arise out of precedent.

    Finally, In the end, if you allow anyone on a school bus that is not enrolled in your public school system one could argue that you are a public transportation system with all of its liabilities and risks.

    My opinion, not even a consideration.

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  42. While I myself think is only logical and reasonable, it sounds way to much like the 1947 New Jersey transportation situation that was turned into a case that was brought to the US Supreme Court and where Justice Hugo Black, (who was also a lawyer working for the KKK before his appointment to the court!)in writing for the majority, “found” the constitutionality of a separation of church and state and disallowed transportation for Catholic students, on “public school busses that were dropping them off on the way to the public schools! So I would stay away from the issue of transporting children to any place but the schools that you are responsible for.

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