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Nonpublics, charters could pay to ride

Published (3/4/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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School districts must bus students to charter and nonpublic schools. However, the state funding formula does not cover the total cost, so districts have to cut elsewhere to pay for it.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls), HF2910 would allow school districts to bill charter or nonpublic schools for the unreimbursed portion of the actual cost.

Keith Paulson, transportation director for Anoka-Hennepin schools, said his district covers 172 square miles and has 13 nonpublic schools. He estimates the unreimbursed cost to the district is $221 per pupil more than what it receives in state aid for the purpose, which amounts to $630,000 taken from its general revenue.

Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, said examples of what other districts are paying in excess annual transportation costs include Rochester, paying $540,000, or $277 per pupil; Fairmont, $131,000 or $318 per pupil; Centennial, $73,000 or $225 more per pupil; and Fergus Falls,$52,000 or $220 per pupil.

Rep. John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) said the issue presents a $13 million problem for districts, but could cost the state $20 million if even a small fraction of non-district students were to enroll in district schools if their parents had to pay for transportation.

The bill was laid over by the House K-12 Education Finance Division Feb. 26 for possible inclusion in its omnibus bill. A companion, SF2770, sponsored by Sen. Dan Skogen (DFL-Hewitt), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division.

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