Philadelphia schools weigh transportation cuts

June 24, 2008 3:24:26 PM PDT
Proposed changes surround a small plastic card, the transpass. The forum was held to consider changes that would mean some students now receiving transpass, would no longer.

55,000 public, charter and parochial school students get free transpasses from the Philadelphia School District to travel back and forth to class. To eliminate a $4.2 million budget deficit, the School Reform Commission is considering proposals to cut back the number of free transpasses the district gives 7th to 12th graders. The first requires students maintain 85% attendance.

The 2nd proposal extends the minimum distance students must live from school to qualify from 1-and-a-half to 2 miles. Sharon Monroe is just one of the unhappy parents. "Now see that I don't agree with because my kids just make the cut off with the one and a half because then you would cut out a whole lot of children who live underneath that mark."

Beth Shore Hertz, another parent, agrees with the attendance restriction. "If a child cannot show up to school and is out more than he should be definitely take it away and let him pay for it."

Either proposal would effect 6000 to 7000 students. While parental reaction differs, some worry proposed changes could negatively affect students whose families may not be able to afford full fares, and thus accelerate the drop out rate, especially among those who would have to walk long distances through snow, rain and sometimes violence plagued communities.

11th grader Ben Shore "I don't really know who would want to walk 2 miles to school."

Helen Gym, a parent says, "When you look at key target years when children in the 7th through 12th grades are trying to get them to go to school to reduce the amount of distractions, we don't want there to be barriers in the way to get to school." The district's chief operating officer does not believe either change will cause children to drop out.

Fred Farlino says, "I believe the vast majority of those students will walk to school as they have done in the past. Remember, we've only been with transpasses for just this one year."

Another forum will be held tomorrow afternoon.