Education Funding

N.Y.C. School Kids Face Paying to Ride to School

By The Associated Press — December 16, 2009 3 min read

The cash-strapped agency that runs New York City subways and buses has reluctantly approved a 2010 budget that includes service cuts and could leave New York City children without free rides to their public schools.

Wednesday’s vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, which is facing a $383 million budget shortfall, would end the more than 60-year-old practice of giving free rides for schoolchildren, a move that could cost half a million students nearly $1,000 per year in transportation fees.

Yet several Metropolitan Transportation Authority board members characterized the vote as merely the beginning of the budget process. They were required to pass a budget by the end of the year.

Adam Ufret, a concierge at a Manhattan apartment building whose three daughters use student passes, said, “I would cut my home phone and just use my cell phone, or instead of steak we’d have corned beef.”

The MTA board, facing a $383 million budget shortfall, will vote Wednesday on a proposed 2010 budget that would eliminate several bus and subway lines and scale back services for the disabled, as well as phasing out student Metrocards.

Charging students full fare would end a policy of free or discounted rides that has been in place since 1948.

Some 417,243 students now receive free Metrocards and another 167,912 get half-fare cards.

The cards can be used on schooldays between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. and are good for three rides a day — to school, to one after-school activity and then home.

They are distributed, not on need, but based on the distance a student must travel to school. High school students and many middle school students in New York City do not attend the school closest to them but are expected to apply to schools that match their interests and abilities.

Clara Hemphill, a scholar at the New School who founded a school-rating Web site, said New York City high school students typically travel 45 minutes to an hour to get to school.

If forced to pay full fare, Hemphill said, “some parents would swallow hard and pay. Some parents would not or could not. I think you’d see higher levels of truancy.”

The single-ride fare is $2.25 and a 30-day unlimited pass is $89 — and the fares are expected to rise in 2011 and again in 2013.

The costs would be significant in a city where 80 percent of public school students have family incomes low enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

“No one is prepared for this,” said City Councilman Charles Barron, who heads the council’s education committee. “No one is prepared to pay another thousand dollars for transit fare for their children.”

There is no federal mandate that school districts provide free transportation.

In other large U.S. cities where thousands of students ride public transportation, their rides are subsidized.

Frank Shuftan, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools, said 90,000 Chicago students ride city buses and trains to school at about 85 cents a ride — a steep discount.

Matthew Wilder, a spokesman for Boston Public Schools, said Boston students who live more than two miles from school get free passes and others get half-fare passes.

Under the plan before the MTA board, New York City students who get free rides now would start paying half fare in September 2010 and full fare in September 2011.

The board would hold public hearings and vote again before the fares actually went into effect, leaving an opening for an 11th-hour rescue by the city or the state.

Elected officials last wrestled over the student Metrocards in 1995 and came up with a deal that had New York City and New York State each kicking in $45 million a year and the MTA paying the rest. The city and state contributions remained flat until the state recently cut its contribution to $6 million.

Transit advocate Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, whose two daughters use student Metrocards, said he hopes someone can save the program once again.

“The mayor and the MTA and the governor have to figure out a way to solve the problem the way they did back in 1995,” he said.

Related Tags:

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

User Experience Analyst
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Business Analyst - 12 Month Contract
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Director Marketing
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Camelot Education
Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships
Camden, New Jersey, United States
Camelot Education

Read Next

Education Funding Return of Pet Projects in Congress Could Mean More Money for Schools to Address COVID-19
"Community funding projects," also known as earmarks, could support district and nonprofit K-12 projects.
3 min read
In this Jan. 4, 2020 photo, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, DeLauro was elected chair of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee by fellow Democrats, a position colleagues say will make her the most powerful politician from Connecticut in Washington in generations.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington last year. On Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, DeLauro revealed a proposal to restore the practice of earmarks after a decade-long ban in Congress.
Al Drago/Pool Photo via AP
Education Funding Concern About Unspent COVID-19 School Aid Continues as Congress Moves Toward More Relief
A congressional analysis has spurred discontent about how fast money will be spent, but some warn against over-simplifying the situation.
5 min read
Thermometers, gloves, and cleaning swabs sit on a table at the entrance to the Frederickson KinderCare daycare center, in Tacoma, Wash on May 27, 2020.
Thermometers, gloves, and cleaning swabs sit on a table at the entrance to the Frederickson KinderCare daycare center, in Tacoma, Wash on May 27, 2020. As a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, workers and children have their temperatures checked every day before they enter the building.
Ted S. Warren/AP
Education Funding Opinion What's It Take for Philanthropy to Help Rural Schools?
Place-based philanthropy has enormous potential to revitalize rural communities. The trick is, it’s tough to get this sort of approach right.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Education Funding Summer School, Extended Learning a Priority in $129 Billion COVID-19 Relief Bill
The reconciliation bill from House Democrats is an early attempt at what's shaping up to be a new federal aid package for education.
5 min read
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP