Many in Lowell have talked about the amount the CITY pays for transportation for Lowell students. Between “Regular” and “Special Education” transportation the cost this school year is approx. $7.8 Million dollars.
That dollar amount is NOT counted toward the city’s Net School Spending requirement nor is it covered under the Chapt. 70 money that comes from the state. That $7.8 is over and above the NET School Spending requirement and even though you see it in the school budget DESE says that is not unusual but it still isn’t counted toward NET School Spending.
Schedule 7 shows expenditures and riders for various programs such as regular ed, homeless,special ed, vocational,etc. It’s the basis for regional transportation aid and for homeless and non-resident vocational transportation reimbursements.
Transportation is not included in Chapter 70 foundation budgets or aid, so it does not count in net school spending. Most districts report transportation in the school budget, but there are a small number that count it in municipal.
This is the 2014/2015 End of School Year Schedule 7 summary report that shows the CITY spent $7,067,590.00 to transport 9,467 students receiving “Regular Education – Special Education – Charter School Education – Out of District Education and Private School Education.” and includes the cost to transport homeless students from Lowell living outside the district.
We have heard that there could be a large cost reduction in busing if we switched back to neighborhood schools and in fact I believe a plan was put together last year that showed that possibility. However in that plan I believe the thinking was that Charter Schools would fall into a “Zone” school and that it would limit transportation to students only in that zone to attend that particular Charter School.
However the DESE Website spells it out clearly that even if the city went to the Neighborhood Schools or Neighborhood Zones, Charter Schools are NOT limited to that rule and are considered City or district wide and the city would still have to bus students from all over the city to the Charter School they wanted to go to regardless of where it was in the city they lived.
From the DESE Website:
Districts that utilize neighborhood zones to establish eligibility for transportation services for its students, however, may not impose a geographical zone around a charter school and limit transportation for students attending the charter school to only those students who reside within this zone. See 603 CMR 1.07(3)(a). Charter schools are district-wide schools whose “zone” is the entire school district, such as a single high school or vocational school. The school district’s obligations to transport students who attend a charter school extend to all students who reside within the school district because all students who reside within the school district within which the charter school is located have a similar opportunity to attend the charter school.
I believe we would also have to get a court to agree to end our voluntary desegregation agreement.
So while the neighborhood school idea is brought up often, based on the well publicized space crunch in the middle schools and the Charter School requirements I don’t believe that it is possible at this time to go back to the neighborhood schools or even if we did that the cost savings would be as large has many first hoped.