I have put forward the following motion for debate on May 22nd: That Student Transportation fees be eliminated through a phased approach over the next four years.
Removing barriers to families that have students riding the school bus is positive for all Edmontonians, whether they have children in school or not. Better transportation contributes to reducing traffic congestion, helps the environment, and makes life easier for families with children by reducing wasted driving time.
Eliminating transportation fees could attract more students to our district, reduce congestion on our roads, reduce traffic in neighbourhoods, help reduce our carbon footprint and support families, increasing productivity, reducing time spent shuffling kids to schools and significant traffic congestion by getting more students onto the school bus. Our districts are funded on a per pupil funding model. Eliminating fees could incentivize public schools as a choice for families. For instance, Edmonton Catholic Schools does not charge for kindergarten students to ride the bus, and have successfully used transportation as a loss-leader to recruit more students. For instance, 25% (10,000 students) of ECSD Students are non-Catholic and waiving transpiration fees could contribute to our competitiveness.
Bill #1 eliminated school transportation fees for parents, and it was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it didn’t go far enough. We need to cover all transportation fees for parents, especially for students in language or alternative programs. We value programs of choice just as we value regular programs, and we want to see equity — we want to see school transportation fees eliminated for all of these students. Many rural school boards do not charge any transportation fees, and have long geographic distances to travel, but urban students too have long ride times and traffic to reckon with.
One of my ongoing advocacy priorities is the need to eliminate transportation fees across Edmonton — not just for your designated school but for alternative programs, too. I know the government wants to make this change, and Bill 1 was a first step towards that end.
Next steps could contemplate a reduction or elimination of transportation fees through a phased reduction through the Board of Trustees, requesting support from the city of Edmonton, the Government of Alberta, or amendments as posed by my colleagues at the May 22nd Board Meeting. All levels of government have a shared interest in more efficient transportation in our city. We can’t afford not to address climate change for the sake of our students, our city, and our planet. Incentives to enable families to move away from automobile dependency at all levels of government should be enabled.
The provincial government has the ability to legislate collaboration between school districts for transportation systems. Many parts of Alberta operate duplicate transportation systems. According to a preliminary study in 2014, shared transportation with the Edmonton Catholic School Board, with Public and Catholic students riding the same bus to different schools, could save 2.7 million annually through the Edmonton Student Transportation Authority (ESTA) as well as reducing ride times if it were signed or legislated. Is it time to revisit Public school and publicly-funded separate Catholic School board students riding the same bus?
The Province is currently consulting parents on transportation: https://education.alberta.ca/student-transportation/
Will you sign my Petition as a show of support for eliminating transportation fees?
I value alternative programs, and opportunities for student choice in programs and locally developed courses. I also value making sure these programs are available for all students who want them. As your trustee, I have advocated for equity and support for our numerous choices throughout the district.