Sponsored by Rep. Chuck Basye of Rocheport,Mo., House Bill 606 would allow high school students in Columbia Public Schools (CPS) to ride public buses in place of standard school buses.
Currently, CPS spends more than $12 million and receives reimbursement for roughly $2 million on transportation, Baumstark said. The shortfall requires the district to pay for transportation from the operating fund.
“Our local taxpayers end up making up the difference between what the state gives us and what it actually costs to fund transportation for CPS,” Baumstark said. “Transportation is required by state law, so we don’t have any option but to foot the bill for what the state does not provide.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch of Hallsville, who said the bill passed out of Committee and is awaiting to be assigned in the Missouri House floor debate. If it passes out of the House, it will then go to the Missouri Senate.
For the city of Columbia, Toalson Reisch said CPS students could partially fix low city bus ridership.
Baumstark said CPS and the Board of Education continue to have conversations with local legislators about various needs regarding transportation.
“Specifically, the requirement that all students must ride a school bus versus a city bus or some other mass transit mode of transportation,” Baumstark said. “Without looking at current requirements and continued reductions, it places districts in a very difficult position to meet the requirements and the high costs of providing transportation for students.”
At this time, Toalson Reisch said she does not see this bill expanding to other areas of Missouri.
“The urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis seem to be opposed to this,” Toalson Reisch said. “Also, unions and union bus drivers and union lobbyists, such as the current mayor of Columbia, seem to be against it.”
Given the rising cost of transportation in the district and a continued shortfall in state funding to support mandated school transportation, Baumstark said the district would to be flexible and use an existing resource in the community.
Baumstark said many communities utilize public transportation as a supplement to regular school transportation.
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