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Rising costs, fewer students


School transportation costs have soared in West Virginia,

  • early doubling during the past decade, even though the state buses 25,000
  • fewer children.



    Gasoline prices have shot up. Liability insurance costs more.

    Bus driver salaries are rising. And West Virginia school buses are traveling

    more miles every year.



    ?At one time you had 25 students on a ridge,? said Jay Yeager,

    transportation director in Wetzel County. ?Now there are only three. We have to

    run the bus on more roads to fill up the buses. If there are only two students

    on a ridge, we?re still required to go up there.?



    West Virginia spends nearly 7 percent of its education budget

    on transportation, more than any state in the nation, according to data from

    School Bus Fleet Magazine. Four counties ? Gilmer, Clay, Tyler and Doddridge ?

  • pend more than 10 percent of their budgets on busing.


    West Virginia ranks 10th in the nation on transportation

  • pending on a per-pupil basis. Gilmer County pays more than $1,000 per pupil to
  • haul children to school.



    ?There?s virtually no incentive to control costs,? said Julio

    Massad, a consultant who studied West Virginia school transportation in 1998.






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    face="Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular">Long rides,

    tough hides: a graphic



    face="Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular">The informational

    graphic is

    available for download












    Acrobat required for .pdf










    Massad recommended numerous ways to control costs, from changes

    in the state?s school funding formula to cutting salaries for bus drivers, who

    are paid for full-time work when they only work part of the day.



    The rising transportation costs have forced counties to slash

    elsewhere: in classrooms, offices and cafeteria kitchens.



    ?They don?t have enough cooks to cook the meals,? said state

  • chools Transportation Director Wayne Clutter, who recommends an overhaul of
  • the state funding formula.



    To pay for bus drivers in Pocahontas County, the school board

    eliminated weekend custodians who clean the schools.



    The state?s funding formula distributes money based on

    enrollment, not the number of students who ride buses or the number of miles

    buses travel.



    Last year, state schools Superintendent David Stewart

    recommended that legislators allocate $3.6 million to hire 119 additional bus

    drivers. Legislators rejected the request.



    West Virginia has taken at least one step to curb costs since

    1998: School buses are now retired after 12 years of service instead of 10. The

    change saves the state $2.3 million a year.



    To contact staff writers Eric Eyre and Scott Finn, use e-

    mail or call 357-4323.




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