UDPATE: Board Admits Bus Plan Mishandled, Still Weighing Cuts
Members of the state Board of Education said Tuesday that it has handled poorly — from a publicity standpoint — a proposal to cut school bus service for thousands of Hawaii students.
The board will continue to work on its cost-cutting plan, board Chairman Don Horner said at a board meeting Tuesday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported today.
However, it is still unclear how many routes will be dropped in the upcoming year, the newspaper said.
The Star-Advertiser had earlier reported that Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he will not intervene in the state Board of Education’s latest plan to cut school bus service to 2,380 students statewide, including 96 students on two routes on the Big Island.
That was the message the governor gave to Oahu Rep. K. Mark Takai in a letter delivered Monday, the newspaper reported Tuesday.
“As governor I do not have unlimited authority to declare an emergency for any matter I choose,” Abercrombie’s letter said.
Takai, a Democrat who represents the Pearl City area, had asked Abercrombie to use his “emergency powers” to stop the cuts in student bus services.
In efforts to save money, the school board at one point had proposed cutting the service for 7,600 students statewide. That plan would have cut 17 Big Island routes affecting 538 students, including 10 routes with 380 riders in West Hawaii.
Board members later restored all seven East Hawaii routes and reduced the number to be cut on the leeward side to four routes involving 179 students.
The latest plan under consideration would cut only two bus routes on the Big Island, both serving Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School.
At the Tuesday meeting, DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi told board members that the department will need to eliminate 91 routes in order to meet the department’s board-approved student transportation budget of $36.5 million for the next fiscal year. That would include 49 consolidated with other routes but would require the dropping of 49 routes affecting 2,380 students.
Those students represent 5.5% of general education student riders and 1.4% of the total student population, she said.
Besides the 96 Big Island students, it would affect 30 students on Maui, 104 on Kauai and 2,150 on Oahu.
The criteria used to determine which changes are made include the distance the student must travel to school, availability of alternate modes of transportation, grade level “and other conditions and circumstances unique or peculiar to a county or area,” Matayoshi said in a report to the board.
State education officials said the elimination of the routes combined with consolidations of others would save about $5.5 million in the next school year, the Star-Advertiser reported. The Department of Education faces a $17 million funding deficit for student transportation next year, it said.