By William C. Singleton III
The Hoover school board voted this month to eliminate bus service to its schools for the 2014-2015 school year.
The board said the move was necessary to free up about $2.5 million annually that can go to the classroom. However, the move has angered many parents and will likely mean 140 to 150 school drivers and other employees connected to the system’s transportation department may lose their jobs.
Board members and Superintendent Andy Craig defended the decision, saying school revenue has declined over the years as student enrollment has increased.
Since 2008, the system’s revenue on a per-student basis has declined from $13,715 to $11,356 for the year ending Sept. 30, 2012, according to a statement on the system’s website at www.hoovercityschools.net.
“Despite increased enrollment, expenditures for instructional and instructional support services have been reduced 6 percent and 10 percent respectively the past four years, leaving Hoover City Schools employing 110 fewer teachers in 2013 than it did in 2008 on a per student basis,” a statement on the site reads.
The system has had to cut expenses in other areas to offset loss of operating revenue, which has totaled a decline of $96.8 million from 2008-2012.
But Trisha Crain, an education activist and blogger, said she doesn’t agree with those numbers.
“That $96 million reduction is inflated because of the money Hoover received from the 1-cent sales tax that year,” she said. “If you look at the 2008 fiscal year and what is expected this year, it’s only a $20 million decline.”
Crain said she thinks Hoover parents and residents were surprised to hear the school system needed to make such deep cuts to save money.
“The Hoover school community is looking forward to seeing more details of this dire financial picture Mr. Craig paints,” she said.
Crain said she has many friends who are bus drivers and while they are naturally concerned about their jobs, they are also thinking of the students.
“These bus drivers feel responsible for the kids that ride their buses,” she said. “They see the kids that are going to be left at the curb.”
Even though the plan is to eliminate bus service overall, transportation will continue for children with special needs who rely on bus service to get them to and from school, Hoover education officials say.
School officials said they made the announcement now to give parents time to plan for the eventual elimination of bus service to and from school.