A limited-use, digital debit account could be set up in the name of each participating student, with parents given the option of receiving a physical debit card to complete purchases. The Michigan Department of Treasury could deposit funds into each eligible account by Aug. 1 each year. The annual funding could be assigned in equal amounts to each student, or it could be distributed on a per-mile basis, with an individual cap set to ensure more students have access to scholarships.
As the student uses transportation services to attend school, money from the debit account would pay qualified providers, up to a capped annual amount. In the case of ridesharing, functioning apps could be programmed to receive scholarship funds directly and limit their usage to predetermined routes to and from school. This might necessitate the development of special funding arrangements, including prepaid weekly or monthly subscription services that would reduce the hassle of making individual payments and could include a discounted rate based on volume of use. Parents and school staff would be able to monitor the ride usage and account balance.
Expanding access to school transportation through Student Mobility Scholarships would create multiple benefits:
- Increase equitable access to educational options that may be out of reach for students with lesser means.
It may not be economical for a school to pay for a full-scale busing option for the benefit of just a few students, especially if those students need to commute a longer-than-normal distance to the school. But a small amount of extra aid may underwrite the use of smaller school vehicles, public transit or ridesharing service for these students.
- Put parents in charge and give some an extra earning opportunity.
More affluent parents have long been able to take control of how their child gets to school. Mobility scholarships would make that same option available to parents with more limited financial means. For a few parents, the opportunity to become a ridesharing operator could provide an additional benefit.
- Enable public- and private-sector operators to compete fairly, encouraging greater efficiency and innovation.
Ridesharing would not necessarily be the only additional option for transporting students. School districts, charter operators and public transit systems could get more business by providing higher quality service to eligible families with distinct transportation needs.