An AP story ran in the News-Sentinel yesterday, and in the Oak Ridger today, entitled "School officials reviewing state’s bus policy after death." Unfortunately, the story contains some errors — very slight, perhaps just sloppy wordsmithing — but errors nonetheless.
If people are to effect policy change, they must understand clearly who’s policy is what.
Tennessee’s policy states that all students who live more than a mile and a half from their school are allowed to ride the bus.
That’s not quite right. The State of Tennessee makes no policy about who can or cannot ride the bus. The State’s policy is that they will partially reimburse school districts for the cost of transporting students who live more than 1.5 miles from school; however, school districts are not prohibited from offering more — they just have to come up with all of the money.
What State policy does say is that school districts who accept any state funding for transportation are forbidden to charge a fee to any student for riding the bus, even those students who live within the 1.5 mile radius, for whom the State pays nothing.
Bus service was curtailed in 2006 in order to balance the budget. It wasn’t a political ploy (as many assume, including one of today’s letter writers); is was, quite simply, an unpleasant choice between cutting educational services and non-educational services.
Many people have indicated that they would be willing to purchase bus tickets or passes, and that would certainly be one of the easier options. To do so, though, we need for the State to change their policy prohibiting such. I have inquired, but still do not know, whether that’s a law passed by the Legislature, or simply a rule of the State Board of Education.
We have our work cut out for us.