It appears that advocates for rural Iowa schools will again be wrapping up this year’s legislative session without addressing a critical concern.
With more and more school consolidations, students are traveling longer distances to school, resulting in higher transportation costs compared to other districts around the state.
Sen. Tom Shipley (R-Nodaway) represents students in the Southwest Valley District, what used to be Villisca and Corning schools.
“Those kids don't have everything their cousins do in other districts,” Shipley said. “They start with a big rock behind them because of the transportation costs they have to deal with.”
Shipley says Southwest Valley transportation costs come to $456 per student above average transportation costs for Iowa school districts.
“That amounts to $320,000 that can't be spent on the classroom,” Shipley says, “just because they happen to live where they do and it costs that much to get them there.”
An interim legislative committee last summer heard from stakeholders affected by high transportation costs. A bill to divert school infrastructure dollars for rural school transportation was introduced this year. So far it has not won passage. Other bills were also filed but did not survive a legislative deadline.
Backers say the problem has worsened as more and more schools consolidate, and school buses must travel more miles.