School transportation is costly and those costs continue to rise. The national average, per-pupil expenditure for transportation of students at public expense has increased 30 percent since 2000, in cost-adjusted dollars. In Connecticut, the average per-pupil cost of student transportation is $885.78, which has increased 42.2 percent since 2000. At the same time as costs have increased, state-level funding for transportation has decreased in Connecticut, and in 2016-17 the state legislature eliminated the majority of state funding for public school transportation.
Because public education is fundamentally decentralized in the United States, individual states have a wide variety of systems for administering and funding elementary and secondary schools. The requirements and mechanisms for funding school transportation are also highly variable from state to state.
In order to better understand best practices in school transportation requirements and funding structures that could possibly be used in Connecticut, this report analyzes school transportation in several comparison states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
In each comparison state, the following issues in school transportation are discussed:
- Statutory requirements;
- Transportation of exceptional students;
- Methods for funding the costs of transporting students to choice and nonpublic schools; and
- Policies regarding state reimbursement to districts and schools for transportation costs and the expenses allowed under these systems.
In examining these issues, it is found each state has an entirely distinct school transportation system, with different basic requirements for districts, and vastly different funding systems. However, although each school transportation system is different and has its positives and negatives, the survey of comparison states shows that although the components of Connecticut’s school transportation and reimbursement system are similar to other states, there are opportunities for Connecticut to consider additional options that may support districts with the cost of student transportation.