School districts prepare for potential transportation cuts
COLUMBIA - School districts are having conversations with legislators about their budgets after Greitens unveiled his spending plan.
Greitens' proposal would provide $92 million in school transportation aid. It was presented as a $2 million increase for transportation costs, but critics say that number is based on manipulated data and it's actually $13 million less than the legislature approved last year.
Michelle Baumstark, Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman, said transportation is an area that continues to be cut as funds are reallocated.
"This is especially challenging for a school district like Columbia because we cover 300 square miles and transportation is required," she said.
She said CPS currently spends more than $12 million and only gets reimbursed about $2 million.
"The shortfall requires us to pay for transportation from the operating fund. The state has a law that requires 75 percent funding, but we receive about 18 percent," Baumstark said.
Originally public schools were budgeted to get $105 million in state transportation aid in the 2018 fiscal year. Greitens cut $15 million of that when he signed the budget last summer.
Steve Combs, Harrisburg Schools superintendent, said cutting money from public schools "makes no sense."
"He is taking away money from our greatest asset: our children. We have to bus our kids to school," he said.
The House Budget Committee serves as the starting point for state budget bills and could change or ignore the governor's recommendation for school transportation.
Steve Bruce, Jefferson City Board of Education president, said, if the plan passed, the board would consider further staggering the times that elementary, middle and high school students go to school to cut down on transportation costs.
“It’s always a challenge whenever we have issues like this come up because you want to make sure that you’re able to cover that short fall. But you have to look at the report of the budget to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our students,” Bruce said.
If Grietens' plan is approved, Baumstark said, CPS will consider different options to help cut down on transportation costs.
“We’ve had a bill that one of our legislators is proposing that would allow school districts to be able to use other methods of transportation, in particular looking at city buses,” she said.
The districts said they won't know more until closer to March.