While the majority of Boise School District trustees voted to start and end the school day later at nine elementary schools this fall, two trustees lodged protest votes against the state mandate that forced the decision.
"Nobody squawks more about federal mandates and federal control than the Idaho Legislature, but they do the same thing to the School District," said trustee Rory Jones, who voted against changing the school day to 9:15 a.m.-3:45 p.m. The current hours are 8:45 a.m.-3:25 p.m.
If the district did not make the change, the state would have withheld the $385,000 it says the district will save in busing.
"The sad part for me is the burden falls on a limited number of families who don't deserve this," Jones said.
About 20 percent of the kids in the district, or about 2,295 students and their families, will be affected, he said.
In an audit mandated by the state, the district's bus contractor, First Student, said these nine schools were close enough to the ending locations of other bus routes that merging the routes could save miles.
The state pays for the majority of school districts' transportation costs, but so far, the Boise School District has been the only one in the state affected by legislation that triggers an audit when the cost to transport students exceeds a cap set by the state.
"The Legislature wanted to look at districts with high population density to see if they were operating their transportation efficiency," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. "When you're saving money on transportation, $400,000 is money that can go in to other education programs."
But the formula the state used to calculate the cap is flawed, said Boise School Board President A.J. Balukoff.
The state used the cost per mile and the cost per rider to calculate efficiency, but 85 percent of transportation costs are fixed, he said.
Many kids in the Boise School District walk to school, and many don't qualify for busing because they live within 1.5 miles of their school, he said.
That makes the cost per rider high because there are fewer riders, he said.
Inner city transportation also has its own hitches. A bus that starts and stops every three blocks is going to have low miles, compared to a bus that goes out to Orchard Ranch and back, which is a 50-mile trip, and will appear to cost less to operate, he said.
"What does that tell you about your efficiency? Nothing," Balukoff said.
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