The goal of Student Transportation is to provide eligible Idaho students with safe, effective, and efficient transportation to and from school in accordance with federal and state mandates. The Idaho State Department of Education Student Transportation department gives expertise and technical assistance to districts and charter schools regarding school bus maintenance, operations, and financial reimbursement.
It is the responsibility of Student Transportation to provide these services economically and in accordance with sound management policies and procedures. Student Transportation is an integral part of the total educational system, contributing significantly to the learning process by providing safe and dependable transportation.
Every school year, about 109,000 of Idaho’s children rely on bus services to attend school. Every school day, more than 3,400 buses travel more than a total of 25 million miles to transport students to and from home to ensure their participation in academic programs. Transportation programs are operated by
112 Idaho school districts, 23 charter schools, and 3 in-lieu schools.
Student transportation funding is further detailed in the IDAPA 08.02.02.150, and the reimbursement matrices available on the State Department of Education’s (SDE) Student Transportation website.
Due to the information required to calculate funding under Idaho Code, payments to school districts and charter schools are made on a prior year reimbursement basis. Because of this, the funding formula which will begin payments in February of the current fiscal year, reflects transportation expenses for the prior fiscal year. As we move along throughout the fiscal year, the final reimbursement amount is subject to modification as it changes with the effects caused by other claims being audited.
School districts and charter schools have the option of running a district-owned transportation program or a contracted program. Furthermore, there is also the in-lieu option only in which a set rate (Idaho Code §33-1503) is paid to parents or guardians to transport their children.
Not all transportation related-expenses are claimed as part of the reimbursement process. These items are not reported to the SDE as part of the funding calculation. For example, they include most capital expenses, indirect staff costs, and legal fees.
Transportation of students in vehicles other than a conforming “yellow” bus inventoried through the online Idaho Bus Utilization System (IBUS) also falls under this category. Costs associated with this transportation are not included in the reimbursement formula. However, most contracted “yellow” buses are inventoried under the vendor and would be eligible.
Use of district or charter school cars and vans, district or charter school-owned buses not included in their IBUS inventory, chartered coach buses, etc. are not allowed to be claimed as part of the reimbursement process.
Unlike claimable expenses, there are non-reimbursable items which are still claimed because the funding formula will remove these expenses as part of its calculation. For example, such non-reimbursable items are wages for activity drivers and fuel for activity mileage, as all other miles including extra-curricular and field trip miles, are non-reimbursable.
Idaho Code §33-1006(1) and Idaho Code §33-1501 require that the only miles which may be reimbursed are “those directly associated with the transporting of students for the purposes of regular school attendance during regular days and hours”. This is further divided in SISBO and the SDE’s reimbursement matrices and claim instructions. The four reimbursable mileage categories are:
Regular To/From School (R) – Claimable miles while transporting students to and from school, including year-round schools.
Unique To/From School (R) – Claimable miles while transporting students to and from special school programs under Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) and other eligible programs.
Shuttle Trips (R) – Claimable miles while transporting students on regularly recurring days for educational programs during regular school days and hours.
Summer Programs (R) – Claimable miles while transporting students to and from school for IRI, Extended School Year (ESY), and summer migrant education programs (regular summer school miles for non-year-round schools are non-reimbursable).
Field Trips (R) - Claimable mileage for school activities that are part of the total education program in line with content standards as well visits to colleges and universities.
Maintenance (R) – Claimable mileage for moving the “yellow school bus” to facilities for repairs/maintenance, test driving, etc.
Training (R) - Claimable mileage incurred for new and existing drivers’ behind the-wheel and in-service training.
Additionally, Idaho Code §33-1501 limits To/From School miles to those between school and the student residence or a day care facility as defined under Idaho Code §39-1102, and then only for those students who reside at least 1 ½ miles from the nearest appropriate school by road, unless it is the school boards’ judgment that the age, health, or safety of the pupil warrants transportation (handled through Safety Busing). Allowance is made for “Courtesy Busing” of students within 1 ½ miles of the school, provided that space is available and that the student’s pick-up and drop-off locations do not require the bus to change its existing route.
The student transportation funding formula can be divided into four parts. The base transportation reimbursement is the first of these and it serves as the base upon which the other portions build. This portion works slightly differently for a contracted transportation program as from a district or charter-school owned program as the costs of a contracted program cannot be broken down to the degree required.
Under Idaho Code §33-1006(5) district or charter school owned program’s costs are divided between the reimbursable expenses for SDE transportation training, SDE transportation assessment fees, bus depreciation, and bus maintenance, all of which are reimbursable at 85%. All other reimbursable expenses are reimbursed at 50%.
Because contracting programs do not break down their payments to their vendors to this level, a blended average is applied to these programs using the proportions of all district/charter school owned programs which tends to be around 60%.
As part of the claim process, this base reimbursement must also be adjusted to remove the cost of any ineligible student riders (those properly enrolled in public schools who do not otherwise meet the requirements above), non-public school student riders, or any other non-student riders.
The student transportation funding formula can be divided into four parts. The funding cap model is the second of these. Starting with fiscal year 2003-2004’s claims reimbursed in fiscal year 2004-2005, a funding cap was applied under Idaho Code §33-1006(5).
Under this, each transportation program’s reimbursable expenses (not including SDE assessment fees or payments to parents in-lieu of bus transportation) are divided by the districts’ total reimbursable mileage and total ridership (as determined by the highest single count day of the three weeks selected by the SDE each year) to obtain an average cost per rider and average cost per mile.
This is then compared to the statewide averages for these two figures and if the program exceeds 103% of both the statewide average cost per rider and the statewide average cost per mile, the funding for that program is capped at 103% of whichever average cost is more beneficial to the district or charter school.
A funding cap model is run in December of each year to give programs a starting estimate of their reimbursement, and then run again in February, May, and at the end of the fiscal year. In February, May, and at the fiscal year end, foundation payments are sent out to school districts and charter school that include transportation funding.
Programs may apply for a waiver of the cap for particular routes if said route meets two of the following three criteria:
The number of student riders per mile is less than 50% of the statewide average;
Majority of miles are not ran on paved surfaces
Over 10% of the miles driven on the run are a 5% slope or greater.
Programs meeting two of these requirements would then be eligible to receive a funding cap waiver for the affected routes, pending State Board of Education approval.
The student transportation funding formula can be divided into four parts. The block grant is the third of these. Starting with fiscal year 2008-2009’s reimbursement in fiscal year 2009-2010, a block grant was added to the funding formula under Idaho Code §33-1006(7). It was at this time that reimbursements moved from the 85% of the past to the 50%/85% split mentioned above.
The first year’s block grant was defined as the difference between what the program would have received under the 85% only model, and what they received under the 50%/85% split model. The initial year block grant was then divided by the total number of support units the district or charter school had in that first year and this amount is used as the basis for future block grant calculations.
Each year, this base block grant amount is multiplied by the district or charter school’s current year support units, then the resulting amount is modified by the percentage change in total statewide transportation reimbursements from the first year to the current year, minus the percentage change in total statewide enrollment from the first year to the current year.
The student transportation funding formula can be divided into four parts. The $7.5 Million Proportional Adjustment is the fourth of these. During the legislative budgeting process, the fiscal year 2009-2010 reimbursement paid in fiscal year 2010-2011 received a 10% adjustment from transportation funding to discretionary funding. The following two years this budget adjustment continued as a $7.5 million proportional adjustment coming to about 10% per program.
As of the fiscal year 2012-2013 payment, this adjustment has been made a permanent part of Idaho Code §33-1006(8). The amount removed from the transportation line-item is still received by the district or charter school; however, it will appear as part of the discretionary spending line and not part of the transportation line on foundation payment documentation.
Some charter schools may be eligible for the Advance Payment according to Idaho Code §33-5208. This means that they can receive reimbursement for current fiscal year transportation claim, although the fiscal year has not closed and the actual claim has not been audited yet.
The state department of education is authorized to make an advance payment of 25% of a public charter school's estimated annual apportionment for its first year of operation, and each year thereafter, provided the public charter school is serving more grades or at least 10% more classes than the previous year, to assist the school with initial start-up costs or payroll obligations.
Transportation advanced payments will then be made in February and March to bring the total up to 60% of anticipated expenditures, with a final payment at the end of the fiscal year brining this to 85% before the $7.5 mil adjustment. Additionally, the previous year’s actual expenditures are run through the full funding formula and the difference between this amount and what was received in advanced payment the previous year would be included in the February, May, and end of fiscal year payment above.
According to Idaho Code §33-1501, no board of trustees shall be required to provide transportation for any pupil living less than 1.5 miles from the nearest appropriate school (exception, see Safety Busing). Also, according to Idaho Code §33-1502, no board of trustees shall be required to route school buses or other passenger equipment over any road not maintained as part of a highway district, county, state or federal highway system, or by the state or national forest service, except that the primary requirements to be observed by the board of trustees are the safety and adequate protection of the health of the pupils.
According to Idaho Code §33-1501, a board of trustees may require pupils who live less than 1.5 miles from the nearest established bus stop to walk or provide their own transportation.
Safety Busing is the transportation of pupils that live less than 1.5 miles as provided in Idaho Code §33-1501, when approved by the State Board of Education.
Whenever any student enrolls in and attends a school outside the district within which the parent or guardian resides, the parent or guardian shall be responsible for transporting the pupil to and from the school or to an appropriate bus stop within the receiving district.
According to Idaho Code §33-1502, whenever practical, routes shall be so established that no bus stop shall be more than 1.5 miles from the intersection of the driveway of the home of any pupil eligible for transportation and the nearest public road: except any road not maintained as part of a highway district, county, state or federal highway system, or by the state or national forest service.
There is currently nothing in Idaho Code that addresses the length of school bus rides.
According to Idaho Code §33-1502, the board of trustees of each school district may establish and alter bus routes and non-transportation zones. Such routes and zones shall be determined each year. A non-transportation zone is an area of a school district designated by the board of trustees which is impracticable, by reason of sparsity of pupils, remoteness, or condition of roads, to be served by established bus routes.
First, call your local school district office and ask to speak with the Transportation Supervisor. If you feel that your topics are not being addressed in a timely manner, call the principal of your school. If you still need to speak with someone after that, you can contact the district superintendent’s office or your school board trustee. The local school district should have contact information for the school board trustees on hand.