STUDENTS HAVE TO PAY TO RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS, WHAT?!

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The Keller ISD school board approved a plan that’ll make parents pay for students who wish to ride the bus.

Under the plan, parents or guardians will pay $185 a semester for one child to ride the bus and $135 for a second child. Students who get free and reduced lunches will have to pay $100.

“There will be buses,” superintendent James Veitenheimer told parents after initial worries that there wouldn’t be bus service during the school year. “They just won’t be free.”

After initially saying there would be no monthly payment plan, Keller ISD officials came back and said that parents could, after all, pay on a month-to-month basis.

For one child to ride the bus for a month, parents would pay $48 and $36 for another child in the same family. Students who qualify for free and reduced lunches can pay $27 a month to ride. For roughly four months, the rate is just $7 more than the flat rate.

But that’s no longer a guaranteed service: Each year Keller spends between $260 and $360 per student on school bus transportation. District officials say when Keller voters rejected a 13-cent increase in the property tax rate they were left to find other ways of generating money.

During the 2010-2011 school year the district provided about 120 school bus routes. During the next school year, there will be just 72 stops.

The pay-to-ride plan would affect some 7,000 Keller students who live more than two miles from school. District officials anticipate the new school bus system will save the district about $2 million. With the savings – and more state dollars than expected – the district hopes to rehire teachers it planned on firing.

At least two other North Texas school districts, Burleson and Northwest ISD, are also looking at pay-to-ride systems.

Keller ISD schools reconvene August 22.

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