Buses driving up education budgets

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March 2, 2015 by realrenewal

The yellow school bus is driving a growing share of provincial education budgets, yet transportation policies and costs remain “shrouded in mystery and largely hidden from the public,” according to a new report released by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

“School closures and consolidation are routinely implemented as cost-reduction measures without any real disclosure of the impact on school board or provincial school busing costs,” write the report’s authors, who call on provincial auditors across Canada to take note.

“Small school advocates and community activists who ask questions about the added costs to taxpayers are assured that it is either of no concern or that more students can simply be added to existing bus routes,” states the report, titled Education on Wheels. “Given the escalating costs identified in this report, those rationalizations no longer suffice.”

A review of Nova Scotia busing found that 68 per cent of students are now bused, and that transportation decisions are often grant-driven rather than student-driven, leading to cost inefficiencies and a growing carbon footprint.

Among their recommendations, the researchers conclude that full cost accounting could open the door to policies that promote walkable schools and healthier local communities.

Education on Wheels: Seizing Cost and Energy Efficiency Opportunities in Student Transportation. P.W. Bennett and D.M. Gillis, Halifax: Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, 2015.

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