Bus Transportation Issues & Parental Rights
June 30, 2020
 
Dear Columbus Academy Families,
 
As we plan for August’s opening, an important consideration is transportation provided by school districts. Many of our families in Bexley, Columbus, Dublin, Gahanna, New Albany, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Worthington rely on these buses for their children to attend Academy. As you will read below, it appears that reducing busing may be a cost-cutting strategy for public school districts around the state. While this is concerning, rest assured that we will work with our families to find transportation solutions should that be necessary.
 
According to Dan Dodd, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Independent Schools (OAIS), those buses could be in jeopardy. In a recent email to OAIS schools, Mr. Dodd explained that many school districts will probably consider eliminating busing to nonpublic schools. Due to tighter education budgets, increased education expenses and transportation being more costly due to social distancing requirements, boards of education may try to cut transportation costs.
 
Mr. Dodd recommended that independent schools inform their parents of the situation, explain their rights if the districts eliminate busing and suggest a response.
 
Ohio law requires any student in grades 1-8 who lives more than a mile from his/her school to receive bus transportation. Students in grades 9-12 are not entitled to transportation, but many districts offer it to those students as well. Districts are also required to bus community school and chartered nonpublic school students to their school of attendance if they live within a 30-minute radius of the school.
 
Although nonpublic school students have a statutory right to bus transportation, many districts will feel their students’ rights supersede those of private school students, and as a result the districts often make nonpublic student transportation one of the first things to be cut by ruling it “impractical.” Below is the Ohio Revised Code’s process for eliminating transportation based on impracticality, and what rights parents have in the process.
A. [3327.02 (A)] After considering each of the following factors, the board of education of a city, exempted village, or local school district, or a community school governing authority providing transportation pursuant to section 3314.091 of the Revised Code, may determine that it is impractical to transport a pupil who is eligible for transportation to and from a school under section 3327.01 of the Revised Code:

  • The time and distance required to provide the transportation;
  • The number of pupils to be transported;
  • The cost of providing transportation in terms of equipment, maintenance, personnel, and administration;
  • Whether similar or equivalent service is provided to other pupils eligible for transportation;
  • Whether and to what extent the additional service unavoidably disrupts current transportation schedules;
  • Whether other reimbursable types of transportation are available.

B. [3327.02(C)] After passing the resolution declaring the impracticality of transportation, the district board or governing authority shall offer to provide payment in lieu of transportation by doing the following:

  • In accordance with guidelines established by the department of education, informing the pupil's parent, guardian, or other person in charge of the pupil of the following:

  1. The resolution;
  2. The right of the pupil's parent, guardian, or other person in charge of the pupil to accept the offer of payment in lieu of transportation or to reject the offer and instead request the department to initiate mediation procedures.
  3. Issuing the pupil's parent, guardian, or other person in charge of the pupil a contract or other form on which the parent, guardian, or other person in charge of the pupil is given option to accept or reject the board's offer of payment in lieu of transportation.

C. [3327.02(E)]

  • (a) Upon the request of a parent, guardian, or other person in charge of the pupil who rejected the payment in lieu of transportation, the department shall conduct mediation procedures.
  • (b) If the mediation does not resolve the dispute, the state board of education shall conduct a hearing in accordance with Chapter 119 of the Revised Code. The state board may approve the payment in lieu of transportation or may order the district board of education or governing authority to provide transportation. The decision of the state board is binding in subsequent years and on future parties in interest provided the facts of the determination remain comparable.

D. [3327.02(E)(2)] The school district or governing authority shall provide transportation for the pupil from the time the parent, guardian, or other person in charge of the pupil requests mediation until the matter is resolved under division (E)(1)(a) or (b) of this section.
Mr. Dodd stresses that it is very important for Academy families who require bus transportation to understand this and their rights under current law. Bus transportation cannot be cut off until:
 
  • The school district has to complete the six-part test described in Section A before announcing that they are eliminating busing and offering payment (typically about $225) instead of transportation.
  • ODE must appoint a hearing officer to mediate between the parents who reject the payment and the district.
  • Should either the parent or the district object to the mediation, the State Board of Education makes a decision.
  • Most importantly, transportation may not be discontinued to the family until this entire process has been completed.
Mr. Dodd explains further that considering how the process works with the use of a hearing officer for mediation, plus the requirement of the State Board of Education hearing the appeal of the party that disagrees with the decision of the hearing officer, neither ODE nor the State Board are equipped to handle the number of appeals that could result from a massive increase in impracticality declarations. Because the statute requires transportation to be offered until the State Board has made a decision, it could be many months before a case is finally settled.

Please immediately contact me at wuorinenj@columbusacademy.org if you receive notice from your school district regarding the discontinuation of busing. The district is not required to notify our school about discontinuing transportation. If you need busing and receive notice, you should not sign away your right to mediation and not immediately agree to the offered payment. You should also insist that the transportation continue during the mediation process.
 
Thank you,
 
Director of Admissions and Financial Aid