HB 81 would permit school districts to deny bussing charter students.

Bill lets districts say no to busing some charter students

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

HB 81 would permit school districts to deny busing charter students.

HB 81 would permit school districts to deny busing charter students.

A bill giving school districts power to tell charter schools to transport students living within the district passed through the House Education Committee Wednesday.

House Bill 81, sponsored by Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton, the chair of the committee, could force charters to privately contract their own buses to bring students within a district to the schools.

Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, said it was important to have a charter leader comment on the bill, which none did in the hearing. 

Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, said the association is neutral on HB 81.

The bill is actually just a clarifying bill to make clear something that is already allowable in the law,” she said.

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Delaware code currently allows charter schools to request their authorizing district to provide transportation to them. 

For example, Cab Calloway School of the Arts and the Charter School of Wilmington, located in the same building and authorized by the Red Clay Consolidated School District, has its students picked up and dropped off by Red Clay buses. 

Unlike districts, which have a 90%-10% state and local split of funding for transportation, charter schools receive 70% of their home count’s vocational schools expenditure in the prior year for transportation costs. 

“In Fiscal Year 2023 in Newcastle County, whatever Newcastle County Vocational School District’s transportation expenditure was, we calculate the per pupil amount, and then charter schools within New Castle County receive that amount per transportation-eligible students,” said Kim Klein, associate secretary of operations for the Department of Education during the meeting.

John Marinucci, executive director of the Delaware School Boards Association, who has worked in transportation at the state level, said in the meeting that the difference in funding is because charter schools can use hubs, which districts cannot.

A hub would be a central point like a park or a shopping center where parents can take students to be picked up by a bus, rather than the students picked up in their neighborhood.  

Marinucci and Tammy Croce, executive director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, both said Wednesday that they supported House Bill 81.

“Districts have to use existing transportation services and buses and routes to accommodate the request of charters to pick up the charter kids,” Marinucci said. “Sometimes that doesn’t work, sometimes that can’t happen. In a lot of cases it cannot happen, and therefore, there needs to be the ability to deny that request.”

He pointed out that under the bill, the funding would still go to the charter schools, but they would be the ones responsible for managing buses, drivers, routes and related issues and expenses.

HB 81 was released by the committee with a vote of seven favorable and four on its merits. An on its merit vote means the legislator thought the issue should be debated by the house, but didn’t want to be on the record supporting the bill.

It now heads to the House ready list.

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