Chillicothe Gazette, Sarah Wright/AP

Gas Prices Force Schools to Cut Busing

July 01, 2008 01:50 PM
by Anne Szustek
Record fuel prices are breaking school districts’ budgets, making them choose between trimming student bus routes and cutting other programs and services.

30-Second Summary

The average price of diesel, on which most school buses run, hit a record of about $4.76 per gallon this past weekend. America’s school buses burn some 1 billion gallons of fuel each year, and the high prices have hit schools’ financial resources hard.

The need to conserve fuel is forcing some school districts to either eliminate bus routes or have the buses pick up a greater number of students.

“When we budgeted, oil was $77 per barrel. But it’s now over $136,” said Jerry Weast of Montgomery County, Md.’s school board on NBC Nightly News. “You could do away with about 100 teachers, raise class size … do away with support positions. What we have are tough choices in unpredictable times.”

Bowling Green, Ky., has already cut one teaching position because of fuel prices. Public schools in the Palisades, Pa., area are charging more for field trips. And the Durham, N.C., school district is planning to raise prices on school lunches to meet the sudden budget shortfall.

Exacerbating the oil crunch are dwindling property tax revenues, most of which typically go into school budgets, due to falling real estate prices. Budgets could be cinched further this coming January because “there’s an inherent lag between the time home prices fall and property tax revenues decline because of the time it takes for homes to be reassessed,” writes Business Week.

Public schools nationwide have already been forced to substitute healthy lunch items with higher-calorie options in the face of rising global food prices. The price of milk, for example, is pushing up some districts’ annual operating costs by millions of dollars.

Headline Link: ‘The School Bus May not Come for Your Kid This Week’

Video: ‘School Budgets Running on Empty’

Background: ‘The Next Victim of the Real Estate Crisis’

Related Topics: Food, fuel bills hit school cafeterias, indie bands


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines