Where will school bus funding stop next? (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

ELGIN — Natalie Olsen’s daughter finally was at the age that the Elgin mom didn’t have to worry about getting her to and from school. The South Elgin High School student was old enough to walk herself to and from her bus stop, Olsen said.

Then Elgin School District U46 changed the stops.

Those changes, made at the start of the school year, cut all bus stops for high school students. Instead, the district picks up and drops off those students at nearby elementary and middle schools.

For some students, that means walking up to 1.5 miles in the early morning hours, before the sun comes up during the dark winter months, to the nearest school. That included Olsen’s daughter, and that didn’t feel safe, she said.

“For us, that worked out great. My husband was able to take her on the way to work,” Olsen said.

“That’s not the case for everybody,” added Olsen, a member of U46’s Citizens Advisory Council.

That’s just one example of cuts that area school districts have made to services such as transportation in the past few years to save money as the state of Illinois has continued to cut and fall behind in its payments to districts.

And this spring, transportation funding once again was put on the chopping block as state lawmakers considered changes to the way Illinois reimburses school districts for transporting students.

“Overall, transportation funding has been and will continue to be an issue for School District U46,” said Tony Sanders, chief of staff for the district.

But, Chief Operations Officer Jeff King said, that’s just one of “a lot” of unknowns that Fox Valley school districts must factor into their budgets for the coming school year as they wait on action by the Illinois General Assembly.

“There are a lot of unknowns right now — a lot of big ones,” King said.

For the rest of the story, read Where will school bus funding stop next? (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.