House Bill 606 proposes city bus use in CPS


DRIVING DOWNTOWN: The black line of the Como Connect City Bus stops to pickup passengers along Grindstone March 18. Photo by Anna Xu

Ji-Sung Lee

Sponsored by Rep. Chuck Basye of Rocheport,Mo., House Bill 606 would allow high school students in Columbia Public Schools (CPS) to ride public buses in place of standard school buses.

“Transportation is especially expensive in our community as the fifth largest school district in the state and one that is geographically 300 square miles,” Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said. “We have hundreds and hundreds of bus routes that we must operate. This is not a new concept . . . other cities across the United States use city transportation to get students to school.”

Currently, CPS spends more than $12 million and receives reimbursement for roughly $2 million on transportation, Baumstark said. The shortfall requires the district to pay for transportation from the operating fund.

“Our local taxpayers end up making up the difference between what the state gives us and what it actually costs to fund transportation for CPS,” Baumstark said. “Transportation is required by state law, so we don’t have any option but to foot the bill for what the state does not provide.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch of Hallsville, who said the bill passed out of Committee and is awaiting to be assigned in the Missouri House floor debate. If it passes out of the House, it will then go to the Missouri Senate.
For the city of Columbia, Toalson Reisch said CPS students could partially fix low city bus ridership.

Infographic by Reece Furkin
“This will not only save the school district, thus taxpayers, money, [but] it will also increase revenue to the city also, thus, helping taxpayers,” Toalson Reisch said. “This also encourages collaboration between governmental entities. The city, CPS and Columbia Chamber of Commerce support this. Also, there is no fiscal impact to the State of Missouri as it is a local issue only.”
Baumstark said CPS and the Board of Education continue to have conversations with local legislators about various needs regarding transportation.
“Specifically, the requirement that all students must ride a school bus versus a city bus or some other mass transit mode of transportation,” Baumstark said. “Without looking at current requirements and continued reductions, it places districts in a very difficult position to meet the requirements and the high costs of providing transportation for students.”

At this time, Toalson Reisch said she does not see this bill expanding to other areas of Missouri.

“The urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis seem to be opposed to this,” Toalson Reisch said. “Also, unions and union bus drivers and union lobbyists, such as the current mayor of Columbia, seem to be against it.”
Given the rising cost of transportation in the district and a continued shortfall in state funding to support mandated school transportation, Baumstark said the district would to be flexible and use an existing resource in the community.
Baumstark said many communities utilize public transportation as a supplement to regular school transportation.

“There would be no way that it would 100 percent replace providing school bus transportation, but it could be a means to help ease some of our financial strain in this area and utilize an existing public resource,” Baumstark said. “We at least want the ability to have some serious conversation about it.”
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