Will there be any money saved from school transportation costs if the Wake County school system abandons the socioeconomic diversity policy?
As noted in today's article by Thomas Goldsmith, supporters of scrapping the policy are predicting that going to community-based schools will lead to savings. But supporters of the diversity policy are skeptical about savings and warn that it could cost more to have transportation under community-based schools.
Wake says $45 million of its $56 million transportation budget comes from the state.
Both school board member Chris Malone and John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, describe the potential savings as "significant." But Malone backed off the $20 million annual savings he had mentioned during the campaign last fall.
“I believe there will be savings; what the number is, I can’t tell you,” Malone said. “We’ll determine that during the planning process.”
Eric Blau, a member of the Wake Schools Community Alliance's steering committee and the school board's new student assignment committee, stands by his belief that there could be as much as $18 million in savings.
Some disagree with that belief.
“I don’t buy the argument that they are going to save a significant amount of money,” said Tim Simmons, communications director of the Wake Education Partnership. “We already know where the kids live and where the schools are located. There’s a mismatch because of the way the county as grown up and where land is available.
Wake school staff told the old board that eliminating busing for diversity would only save $280,000 annually. But that's for the narrowest possible definition of diversity busing, consisting of kids assigned to remote schools chiefly for diversity.
Wake didn't count the kids who are bused when diversity was not considered the main factor. For instance, the students slated to go to Alston Ridge Elementary from Reedy Creek this fall were officially sent to "populate" the new school. But Laura Evans, senior director for growth management, conceded at Thursday's student assignment committee meeting that the high F&R node was going to "help out Reedy Creek."
Bob Snidemiller – Wake’s senior director of transportation, operations and finance – wouldn’t hazard even a guess for the article as to whether the county can save money by cutting diversity-related busing.