Parents call school bus fare unfair

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

GOREVILLE, Ill. — For years, you've sent your kid off to school with stuff like books, lunch money and their backpacks.

But if some lawmakers get their way, then you can add school bus fare to that list.

Parents don't like it and neither do local schools.

Later this week, Illinois lawmakers are expected to propose a plan aimed at cutting costs across the state, cuts that could end funding for your child's school bus.

There are a number of ways the state could change how schools get reimbursed for transportation costs but one proposal completely removes the mandate to transport students altogether.

Each year, for example, the Goreville, Illinois, school district one spends about $400,000 on transportation.

Since 2010, reimbursement from the state keeps going down and that makes it hard on schools. Now, there's talk of eliminating state transportation funding altogether.

Schools are searching for ways to keep the buses on the road. One idea involves passing the cost on to parents, forcing kids to pay a fare.

Goreville schools are about four miles from Roxanna Carrillos' house, too far for her three kids to walk or bike. So, like a lot of kids, they take the bus.

That bus picks up Ken McDonald's kids, too.

Both parents worry about a proposal that pulls state transportation funding from schools.

"That'd ruin a little town like Goreville and our school," said Dennis Parrish, Goreville school bus director and driver.

Parrish worried about parents, too.

"The parents are gonna have to step up and some of them don't even have vehicles, so what are they gonna do?" Parrish asked.

Students who have to ride the bus may be forced to pay a fare, something parents say is unfair.

That's like saying, 'Kids, hey, we want you to go to school but we're not going to help you,'" Carrillo said.

Parrish said the buses do more than transport kids back and forth to school. Extracurriculars keep these buses busy and if Goreville schools stop getting transportation funding, those extracurriculars could be the first thing to go.

Schools hope it doesn't come to that. Parents say it shouldn't.

Parish said as for Goreville, they probably have enough money to cover transportation costs on their own in next year's budget. The year after that, they may have pass those costs on to parents.

The superintendent of Vienna schools said he's not sure what they'd do. Right now, they're praying lawmakers find another way to cut costs and leave bus funding alone.

As to how much that decision would fall on each individual school district, each situation would vary. One example a superintendent gave us was $250 dollars per student per year. It may be unheard of around here but he said some other districts across the country have had to resort to this.

A spokesperson from the Illinois State Board of Education said lawmakers will likely introduce a transportation bill by the end of this week.

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