Last year EducationPlus helped to facilitate the formation of the St. Louis Regional Collaborative for Educational Excellence with the intent of helping the Normandy Schools Collaborative and Riverview Gardens School District become fully accredited by the 2017-2018 school year. Twenty six districts in the St. Louis region are part of this effort to help NSC and RGSD boost student achievement, strengthen curriculum and recruit, train and retain qualified administrative, teaching and support staff.
Coordinating transportation for homeless students in the unaccredited districts in order to reduce costs is also one of the stated goals of the Collaborative. There is also the opportunity for all districts in the region to realize substantial savings with a more effective transportation system for all students. “Our area school districts spend millions of dollars every year to transport homeless students,” said EducationPlus Executive Director Dr. Don Senti. “With a more efficient system we could save millions and spend that money in area classrooms where those dollars would have the most positive impact.” As part of these efforts, the Collaborative established a Homeless Student Transportation Committee to study the financial impact of transporting homeless students.
The McKinney – Vento Homeless Assistance Act gives homeless students the right to continue attending their “school of origin” or enroll in any public school that non-homeless students who live in the same attendance area are eligible to attend. While certainly well-intentioned, the financial impact of McKinney – Vento is huge, costing the two unaccredited districts hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Those transportation costs are on top of the more than $750,000 that NSC and RGSD spend annually to transport transfer students to other accredited districts. As these two districts work to regain accreditation, it is important they preserve their fiscal resources for the benefit of their remaining students.
Part of the work of the Homeless Student Transportation Committee was to conduct a survey of all EducationPlus member districts to try to determine the financial impact of homeless student transportation on the entire region. Survey responses were received from 42 different school districts that indicated that in the 2014-15 school year those districts had 10,368 homeless students, of which 3,113 required transportation for a total cost of approximately $6.1 million. For context, that number of homeless students requiring transportation is approximately equivalent to the total number of all students in the 47 smallest districts in Missouri.
The survey indicates that districts use a variety of methods to transport homeless students including taxicabs, district buses and cars, contracted transportation with other districts, Metro buses, Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) buses and parent vehicles as well. The Committee is now working to create a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a comprehensive study to determine potential improved efficiencies that can result in substantial cost savings and improved transportation services for area students. For more information, please contact EducationPlus Executive Director Dr. Don Senti at firstname.lastname@example.org.