Parents upset over bus fees

August 26, 2009 4:41:46 PM PDT
As kids make their way back to school across our area some local parents are fighting a district policy. They say the safety of their children is on the line. These parents want a policy overturned in their school district that charges families for bus service if they live within two miles of a school. Several school districts in Texas have similar rules, or don't even pick up kids who live so close.

Within the long line of parents waiting to pick on their children at Rustic Oak Elementary are some very angry moms.

Mother Leann Barone explained, "Now they're trying to charge us for the buses because they say that we should have been charged because we're less than two miles from the school."

Barone and her family live in the Oakbrook subdivision. It's across busy FM 518 from Rustic Oak Elementary. The subdivision has never had to pay to ride the school bus, but that all changed this year.

Pearland ISD School Board President Dr. Glenn Garrison said, "Pearland has had a long history of charging for transportation within the two mile zone. That's because the TEA does not provide any funding for transport within two miles."

"It's ridiculous," said mother Amme Jenkins. "We didn't pay last year."

Dr. Garrison says the Oakbrook families got free busing because the old bus route was longer than two miles. A slight change in the city street signs put families within the two mile radius and the school district's not willing to bend.

"We're already spending $7 million a year in the transportation department, and we're only getting only $1.2 million back from the state," explained Dr. Garrison. "So the taxpayers are already paying $5.8 million a year to transport students."

Angry parents have set up a virtual petition, asking, "Do the school district, city of Pearland, and/or school board expect the children of parents that cannot afford the fee to walk to school?"

But so far there are few other options.

"It's either pay or drive your kid," said Jenkins.

Parents have collected about 515 online signatures as of today, but the school district says the fee is on a sliding scale, depending on your ability to pay. The bus fee ranges from $40 to $60 a month. But many parents insist this school should be excluded, since students don't have a safe walking route.

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