The Beatrice Public School paid-to-ride transportation fee saw no changes for the 2021-2022 school year, but it raised some questions by a board of education member about the need of transportation fees at all.
Assistant Superintendent Jackie Nielsen said that the paid-to-ride fee for students living within Beatrice and less than four miles outside the city limits will be $130, the same as the previous school year.
“When we looked around in surrounding areas that offered similar transportation that we do, we are actually quite low,” Nielsen noted.
The school board’s newest member, Eric Book, asked when the district started pay-to-ride transportation, and why it was started in the first place.
“I have mentioned at prior meetings, my constituents have brought to me why isn’t transportation free? I know it’s within a certain block radius, right? And if you’re going to the high school, you have to pay to ride, is that correct?” Book asked.
Nielsen said pay-to-ride started before her time in the district, so she could only guess as to why it started. She said it mainly impacts middle and high school students, and that families that need to can qualify for free transportation.
“So if families come to us and show us documentation, we waive that $130,” Nielsen said. “Families just need to come to the board office. One of the things that we offer as a district is we offer transportation to our in-town students. I think that’s one of the reasons why we charge, is because we wouldn’t have to offer that. State statute says that the only people we need to offer it to our students that live outside of Beatrice…and then the students that have an IEP and their IEP team has determined that they need transportation. I think the fee comes because these are students that don’t qualify for transportation under state statute.”
“It’s kind of a luxury, so to speak,” board member Doris Martin said. “When you really look at a school budget, I think you have to prioritize things…I’d like to at least keep that going for people that absolutely need it. But I think we’ve seen this year, that many people when asked stepped up and provided transportation for their children.”
Book noted that the district receives between $5,000-$7,000 from pay-to-ride students, and that it seems to him like it’s a small amount of money.
Superintendent Jason Alexander said he appreciates Book’s comments and the constituents’ questions, but that free transportation for qualifying students and pay-to-ride transportation is ultimately a difference between a service that is required and a service that’s being provided.
“That service, it’s a pretty high cost,” Alexander said. “So the $5,000 to $7,000 that we collect doesn’t nearly cover what that service costs. It’s a parental responsibility to get their child to school. When that decision was made, and I think it was made in order to help working parents and schedules and all of those things, but as we’ve noted numerous times, it’s come to a position where because of the impact on the budget, we were needing to look at other alternatives.”
The school board ultimately unanimously approved the 2021-2022 paid-to-ride transportation fees in a 6-0 vote.