AP NEWS

City Council rips transportation costs in BPS budget

June 29, 2017

The City Council has slammed the Boston Public Schools’ $1 billion budget as wasteful, arguing school officials have to rein in ballooning transportation costs.

While the council passed the school budget by an 11-2 vote yesterday during its final budget vote — with Councilors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley casting the dissenting votes — the board sharply criticized the district for putting buses before kids.

“BPS transportation is a problem,” said Councilor Annissa Essaibi George. “We are still prioritizing transportation over education and it hurts our kids. This isn’t just a money problem. It is a policy problem. As a body, we need to do a better job and bring BPS back to the table in September to check in specifically on transportation.”

Transportation makes up $116 million — a 7.4 percent increase — of the $1 billion BPS budget for next year.

The busing costs have risen dramatically over the years, up $33 million from 2011. On a per-pupil basis, BPS’s transportation cost is the second highest and more than five times the average of the largest 200 public school districts, BPS said.

“Frankly,” I think that is unacceptable,” said Councilor Andrea Campbell. “I think going forward in order to hold them more accountable we need to start thinking about how to do things differently.”

“Transportation drives me crazy, I’ve always felt BPS transportation department is a disaster,” said Councilor Tim McCarthy. “We’re paying $110 million to have four or five kids in a passenger bus drive around the city ... for $110 million you could probably Uber every kid to school. We’ve been talking about it, I think the talk is over.”

Superintendent Tommy Chang defended the budget in a statement, saying, “After careful deliberation, the council recognized that this budget allocates more funding for schools as state aid continues to decline, and provides individualized supports for students to help close opportunity and achievement gaps.”

BPS added it is working to streamline high transportation costs, which it partly attributes to state requirements to bus charter and parochial students who live in Boston, fluctuating ridership numbers and uneven school bell times.

BPS also launched a “transportation challenge” last spring to examine the district’s complex routing system to find efficiencies. BPS also is asking parents to opt out of yellow bus service if their students are not using it.