At some school districts across the region, transportation is costing more than the state average of $820 per student.
The Center For Rural Pennsylvania recently released information on school district transportation expenditures per student from 2015-16, pulling data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Only a few school districts across the region are ranked at spending $1,000-plus per student, and those are the Oswayo Valley School District and the Northern Potter School District in Potter County and the Smethport Area School District in McKean County.
Meanwhile, the Bradford, Kane, Port Allegany and Coudersport school districts spent less than $750 per student on transportation.
“The results are not surprising at all,” Bradford Area School District Superintendent Katharine Pude told The Era on Friday. “Our district is 253 square miles with two separate bus runs needed to transport both elementary and secondary students. In urban districts, many students are able to walk to school and there is not a need for the extensive transportation costs.”
Ridgway Area School District Superintendent Bob Rocco also viewed the results as not a total surprise.
“Areas that are rural, such as ours, often have greater distances to travel to pick up students and often we do not have as many students as suburban or urban schools, therefore the cost per students goes up,” he said. “In addition the number of available contractors in rural areas tend to be limited so there is less competition. Thus is not the fault of the contractors; it is just a reality.”
In the Ridgway district, Rocco said that officials work together with the district’s contractor to cut down on transportation expenses.
The Center For Rural Pennsylvania found that in 2001-02, urban school districts spent $577 per student on transportation compared to $739 for rural school districts; for 2006-07, expenses per student totaled $679 for urban districts and $818 for rural districts. Fast forward to 2015-16, when costs per student totalled $776 for urban districts and $958 for rural districts. The numbers have been adjusted to account for inflation.
Based on the geographic size of the districts and the transportation expenditures per student from 2015-16, a total of 200-plus square miles amounted to $1,021 per student; 100 to 199.9 square miles amounted to $788; 75 to 99.9 square miles amounted to $868; 50 to 74.9 square miles amounted to $864; 25 to 49.9 square miles amounted to $789; and less than 25 square miles amounted to $765 square miles. All told, the statewide average totaled $820 per student, according to information compiled by the Center For Rural Pennsylvania.