If you got the back-to-school supply list from your kid's school and thought the amount of money you'd have to spend to send your kid to "free" public school was bad, hold that thought. You could have it a lot worse. You could be required to pay for your kid to climb on a bus to get to that "free" public school.
School districts around the country have decided one of the best ways to manage the economy's educational hit is to set up pay-to-ride schemes for busing. In places like Keller, Texas, that plan will set parents back as much as $185 a semester for their kids to get to school and home in the afternoon. And I thought a list that covers an entire 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper was bad. I don't know a lot of parents in this economy with an extra $370 to throw out for the school year. Not when you look at the rates for the national free lunch program -- the number of kids enrolled grows steadily year after year.
Busing is pain in the butt for school districts. It costs a lot of money, not least because the price of fuel oil keeps climbing even as aid for school districts from the state and federal governments dips. But what's the other option? Oh, right, make parents drive their kids to school. Which works for some stay-at-home parents, and pretty much no one else. Certainly not poorer parents who don't have a car (or only have one). And they might as well be sending out letters that say "sorry, working parents, but we want to make your lives harder." Pour on the working mom guilt!
Pay-to-ride would be a lot more feasible for a lot more parents if schools were built on an adult schedule. But the final bell rings at the average school district some time in the mid-afternoon, when working parents on a traditional 9 to 5 work schedule are at work. Picking up our kids to save on an expensive pay-to-ride fee would mean losing precious money-making time at our jobs, or risking losing employment altogether. Schools need to cut costs, but sending parents into the poorhouse isn't the answer.
It's hard enough for a working mom and dad to rustle up after-school childcare. We deal with daycares that would really prefer to have a younger child because they can charge a parent full-day rates. We deal with school busing schedules that won't transport our children to any place but their actual home. Tell a working mom she now has to find someone to pick her kids up AT school if she can't cough up several hundred bucks, and she might as well be Harry Potter hunting Horcruxes. It's nearly impossible.
Is your district forcing you to pay to bus your kids? How are you handling it?
Image via Cast a Line/Flickr