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Tracy O'Connell Novick @TracyNovick
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Ok, I'm not convinced I have nailed down the best way of talking about this yet, but I think it's good to get some things out around #MAEdu regional schools transportation, especially as we see the #mabudget debate juggle it.
The principle is Massachusetts has some teeny districts and had more of them. There can be advantages (financial and otherwise) to teeny districts joining up.
That's where a whole bunch of MGL Ch. 71 comes in.
MGL Ch. 71 sec. 16C sets a 1 1/2 mile limit, but then says:
the "district shall be obliged to provide transportation for all school children in grades kindergarten through twelve...
"and the commonwealth shall reimburse such district to the full extent of the amounts expended for such transportation, subject to appropriation"
Note, of course, the closing phrase.
It means "if we have/set aside the money to pay for it."
And the state has not "to the full extent."

The districts remain bound by the first part, of course.
Now, the thing I think many who aren't in regionals maybe don't capture is the relative sizes we're talking here.

I'm going to stick with non-vo-techs, because some of the vo-techs feel like cheating.
Here are a few comparisons, using FY17 numbers.

Wachusett Regional is the largest regional by enrollment in the state, with 7100 students.

That makes its student population about the same as Chelsea's, with 7038 students.
The city of Chelsea is 2.5 square miles.

The Wachusett Regional School District is 155 square miles.

About the same number of kids coming over VASTLY different areas.
So for in-district transportation, Chelsea spent $2.5M in FY17.
Wachusett spent $4.7M.

Same number of kids. Almost twice as much on buses.
Quabbin Regional (to Wachusett's north here in central Mass) had 2200 kids.

That's about the same as Norwell, which had 2151 kids in FY17.
Quabbin Regional is 162.7 square miles.

Norwell is 21 square miles.
That's about the same as Quabbin Regional's smallest town in land mass, New Braintree, all by itself.
So Norwell (in district) spent $872K on transportation in FY17.

And Quabbin spent $1.5M.

For about the same number of kids.
We could do this for lots of them, but here's one more:

Wrentham had just under 1000 students in FY17, with 966 enrolled.

So did Mohawk Regional, with 938 enrolled.
Wrentham is 22.9 square miles.

Mohawk Regional is 253 square miles. about comparing apples and oranges...
Wrentham spent $699K on transportation.

Mohawk Regional spent $1.09M.
In fact, the only lines in Mohawk Trail's budget that are larger than transportation are teachers, paraprofessionals, and health insurance.
Add to that this issue across the state on lack of transportation bids:…
...and districts don't even have options.
I talk a lot #onhere about equity and serving all kids.

That means the kids in Oakham and Rowe as much as it does the kids in Chelsea and Worcester as much as it does the kids in Weston and Wellesley.
I don't have all the answers to the tiny population and vast amount of space in some parts of the state. But I do know those kids are guaranteed an education as much as mine are.
And if you're wondering why the regionals are rumbling about #FundtheBusMA, that's why. /fin
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