State Supt., parents raise concerns about impact of new bus fees - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

State Supt., parents raise concerns about impact of new bus fees

Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video

Some Hoover parents are worried about the impact of new fees to ride city school buses.

The Hoover School Board voted on Thursday to support fees to ride the buses.

Parents of non-poverty students would pay $40.75 a month for a child. Parents of students of reduced lunches would pay $20.38. Parents of students of free lunches would pay $14.88 per month. Those rates would come down for each additional child.

"We can pay the bus fee. I don't like it, but we can pay it," Lisa Singer of Riverchase said.

Singer has one child who would ride the bus within the next two years. Singer believes the school board's decision will create problems for her and other Hoover families.

"Less safety because more cars mean more wrecks, mean kids that probably shouldn't be walking to school might be walking to the school. I'm not sure we're gonna be able to get out of our neighborhood in the morning," Singer said.

Those opposed to dropping school bus service and charging fees believe the school board moved too quickly by putting the fee proposal on the board's agenda at the last minute.

"The parents were blindsided. I think had they been notified ahead of time that this would be in discussion, I think we would have a better turnout than we did," Hoover parent Robin Shultz said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Birmingham said the U.S. Justice Department will continue to monitor the fee structure and its impact on a federal desegregation order, especially if it negatively affects African American students.

Hoover School Superintendent Andy Craig told the school board he believes the DOJ will approve of the new fees.

"We think it's a fair and equitable fee strucuture. We think it will lead to efficient operations as well," Craig said.

Still, Singer has her doubts.

"I think this is a back door way of getting rid of buses. I've come to believe they are trying to get rid of part of our community that struggles to pay for basic things," Singer said.

State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice released the following statement, raising concerns about the fees:

"Transportation is an essential function of the education system and we want to ensure that all students have equal access to safe, reliable transportation to and from school. We were surprised by the actions of the Hoover Board of Education last evening regarding fees for transportation services, as we had not been consulted on the proposal.

The fact that Alabama state code dictates that no fees can be collected from any children attending any of the first six grades of a city school is a concern (Section 16-11-26). This code specification alone would make a significant percentage of Hoover's bus riding population ineligible for rider fees. We are reviewing the possible legal and associated ramifications of the proposal and will be meeting with Hoover's leadership early next week to share our findings and provide our input."

The fee structure is listed below:

1 student rider (per month/day)
2 student riders
3 student riders
Non-povery riders
Eligible for reduced lunch
Eligible for free lunch

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