Policymakers in other parts of the nation, and the world, have created programs to fill the transportation gaps so students can get more equitable access to educational opportunities. In some cases, this includes providing funds to families or other private transportation operators. Florida’s nonprofit organization Step Up for Students not only grants scholarships for thousands of low-income students to pay for private school tuition, it also administers a transportation scholarship that helps families pay for a child to travel to a public school outside the county where they live. These scholarships are financed by donors who receive a tax credit equal to the amount they donate. However, the transportation scholarship is only used by a small number of students.[*]
One can also look overseas for examples of innovative approaches to school transportation. Two major eastern Australian states operate or contract for bus services in densely populated urban centers, but use a more student-based approach to suburban and rural school transportation funding. Through its School Transport Assistance Scheme, the Queensland government underwrites expenses for public transit to school via bus, train or ferry. The School Student Transport Scheme in New South Wales similarly offers free or discounted travel for elementary and secondary students through partnerships with regional bus and rail services.
Public funds in Australia can also help pay for privately arranged transportation, including to help parents who must drive more than a minimum distance to a school or a transit pickup point. Queensland’s “conveyance allowance” is limited to a formula based on the distance from a student’s primary residence to the nearest school a child could attend. Through the School Drive Subsidy, the New South Wales government, one time each semester, partially reimburses eligible parents who transport their children to school based on a flat-rate distance fee.
[*] During the 2018-19 school year, 32 students received a $750 transportation scholarship, an increase in usage from previous years. Patrick Gibbons, Step Up for Students, email correspondence with author, July 1, 2019; Ron Matus and Jon East, Step Up for Students, telephone correspondence with author, March 23, 2016.