Source: Sherman Publications

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No Brandon School bus transportation outside district

by Susan Bromley

August 14, 2013

Brandon Twp.- The school district will not be sending a bus to pick up students in Pontiac, nor in any other area outside of this district.

While students who reside in other districts are welcome to attend Brandon as schools of choice students, the school board unanimously agreed during a special Aug. 12 board meeting that district buses should pick up students only within district boundaries.

"It was a choice made in respect to surrounding districts," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "We want kids to come here for a good education, not because they can get on a bus."

In June, McMahon and board members were considering the possibility of sending a bus to pick up students specifically from Walton Charter Academy in Pontiac after learning the Oxford School District was pursuing such an option. Both districts are in a position to lose schools of choice students from any district that was failing to meet adequate yearly progress after recent changes in state law. Formerly, poorly performing school districts were obligated to provide transportation for students who wished to attend school in a successful district. Dr. Robert Taylor, director of student services for the Pontiac School District said in the 2012-2013 school year, 46 students that reside within the Pontiac School District boundaries were bused to Brandon High School.

Under the previous law, after one year as Brandon students, the Pontiac residents would no longer be eligible for the busing.

With out of district busing no longer a state requirement, it is possible that some students will not have a means to get to the school of their choice. Oxford Superintendent William Skilling said if a minimum of 40 students from Pontiac signed up, Oxford Schools would send a bus to pick them up. Such a move would leave Brandon at a disadvantage. McMahon researched the costs and for about $34,000 per year, the district could run one 50-passenger bus to Pontiac, roundtrip, including the cost of gas, the bus maintenance, and the driver.

Brandon receives annually about $7,000 per-pupil in funding, thus, if the district picked up 40 schools of choice students, they would also pick up $280,000 in funding.

While the loss of potential revenue is a big concern, McMahon said, the decision to not provide out of district transportation was made out of some ethical concerns.

"Going into another district and picking up their students is very disrespectful to that district," she said. "It has a poacher mentality and we decided we couldn't just get 50 students from Walton Charter and not offer transportation to other schools of choice students. It would be preferential treatment when we have kids from all over the place."

Brandon had more than 500 schools of choice students in the 2012-13 school year. The district has been open to students who live outside the district since 1996, when it had six schools of choice students and the numbers have increased every year since then. Schools of choice brings per-pupil funding of more than $3 million annually.