Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for September 14, 2006

Time to go to a cab!

Sure beats walking 5 miles to school...through parents did!

From the Philadelphia Daily News...

289 kids take taxi to school - to tune of $15,000 a year each


Getting to and from school is as easy as calling a cab for 289 Philadelphia students, because that's their regular mode of transportation. The cost? About $40 a day or $15,000 a year for each kid.

This strange, but true, fact came to light yesterday during a nonvoting meeting of the School Reform Commission.

Buried in the pile of proposed contracts and resolutions the SRC was discussing for possible passage next week, an item described as "Taxicab Service" caught the attention of SRC member Daniel Whelan.

It called for the school district to award a five-year contract extension to City Cab Co. for $21.5 million, and with Checker Cab Co. for $1.1 million.

"I'm concerned that it works out to be $15,000 a year per kid," Whelan said after he'd left the meeting. "I'm not saying that the kids don't need special transportation of some sort, but my common sense... says there's got to be a cheaper way of doing this." School district chief executive Paul Vallas said he, too, believes that the cab service is expensive but that it's mandated by the state and there is nothing he can do about it.

"Everybody talks a good game about saving transportation dollars," Vallas said. "But the minute we go in and try to tweak a program, suddenly there's a constituency."

Of the 289 students who receive taxicab service, 259 of them get special-education services for medical, emotional or other reasons.

State law requires school districts to transport special-education students anywhere, district officials said.

"Before we put a kid in a cab, we've investigated," said Brenda Taylor, district associate superintendent of specialized services. "It's either medically necessary or it's the outcome of a legal mandate."

One hearing-impaired boy gets bus service to and from a Pittsburgh school every two weeks.

The taxis will cost the district more than $4 million this year, Vallas said.

Besides the taxicabs, the district also pays to transport:

In addition, a 1972 state law requires public-school districts to transport nonpublic-school students as far as 10 miles from the city boundary.

Vallas said he should be allowed to determine who is bused and allowed to cap the distance that students are transported outside the city.

Otherwise, he said, the state should reimburse the district for those transportation costs.

"I honestly think that there is probably $20 [million] to $25 million in savings... to be had from cutting transportation costs without adversely impacting the quality of educational services," adding that the district's annual transportation budget is more than $94 million, or 4 percent of the total figure.