FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Schools board hears about options for less spending on buses, and need for more state funding

After opposition greeted a suggestion to save up to three-quarters of a million dollars by cutting bus service to most “option schools” – including Louisa Boren STEM and Pathfinder K-8s in West Seattle – Seattle Public Schools is looking at other options too. The School Board spent almost two hours Tuesday hearing and talking about possible ways to save money on transportation; it was a “work session,” so no decisions were made. District staff said the underlying problem is that the state funding for school transportation falls short, so fixing that would mean cuts and changes wouldn’t be necessary, but that’s up to the Legislature and Governor.

(STARS is a state-funding formula.)

Each bus needed costs the district $102,000. Much of the transportation the district offers, it was noted, is not legally required; they could cut back on eligibility, but then they’d be getting less compensation. One possible way to save, district-wide: Group schools in three start-time “tiers” rather than the current two, meaning fewer buses would be needed; that could save $3 million to $5 million, staff believes. One board member said that wouldn’t be simple, recalling the difficulty of getting to the current two tiers. District staff also noted the possibility of unintended consequences – the current two-tier timing means more money has to be spent chartering buses for sports transportation.

Big changes would likely not be possible until the 2022-2023 school year, staff acknowledged, but for next year they could make some money-saving tweaks such as adjusting routes and walk zones, or offering more ORCA cards for older students to use Metro buses.

WHAT’S NEXT: School board members were asked to let staff know what they’re interested in pursuing; the topic will be brought back during a budget work session next week. West Seattle/South Park rep Leslie Harris asked Superintendent Denise Juneau if option-school principals’ request for a meeting with staff was being addressed; Juneau said she believed two members of her staff were “setting up some sort of meeting.” Meantime, though work sessions don’t have public-comment periods, you can comment via email –

8 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Seattle Public Schools board hears about options for less spending on buses, and need for more state funding"

  • JJ February 24, 2021 (11:36 am)

    If they wanted to save money on transportation they could cut athletic competitions.

    • vee February 24, 2021 (4:17 pm)

      What a dumb responseKids mental health is at all time riskThey need outlet They need to go back to school

  • ACG February 24, 2021 (12:09 pm)

    I still find it hard to believe that school board positions, while elected, are unpaid. I cannot imagine the amount of time, effort and stress those positions must take in addition to the board members regular jobs and life responsibilities. While I don’t always agree with the decisions (or lack thereof) I do commend the board members for the time that this position must take in their lives. It’s a thankless volunteer position whose decisions affect so many. 

  • Graciano February 24, 2021 (1:53 pm)

    Back when I went to SPS, you went to the nearest  school. My Mom gave me a ride to and I had to walk home. The only time I ever saw a bus, is when we went on a field trip. I turned out “OK”.  What I don’t understand nowadays, why do I see a taxi services to the school. Seems like a horrible way to waste tax payer funds.

    • WSB February 24, 2021 (1:55 pm)

      As noted in previous coverage, the option schools take some pressure off many neighborhood schools – one of the slide in the meeting deck shows which schools (including six in this area) would be over capacity if a transportation cut caused anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of current bus riders to switch to their neighborhood school. Also, regarding the taxis: There’s a small # of students for whom transportation is required due to the McKinney-Vento Act:

    • Daphneadora February 24, 2021 (8:08 pm)

      I also went to SPS. In only three years did I go to a nearby school which I was able to walk to.  For a few years I attended an alternative school (which would now be considered an option school).  SPS provided a bus which took me and other students in my area to another part of the city. The high school I attended was not part of an alternative program but as part of the effort to integrate SPS, we were bussed across the city (on SPS busses, not on Metro with a pass). My point is that SPS has provided other bussing options throughout its history as part of both its “alternative” and “regular” programs.

  • bolo February 24, 2021 (6:26 pm)

    Does anybody know if school transportation costs or school expansion were considered in the “Urban Villages” development plan?

  • Jennifer February 27, 2021 (7:23 am)

    I don’t understand why actual 2019-2020 costs are above 2018-2019 when schools were closed for several months.  And I would expect 2020-2021 bussing costs to be extremely low since, again, schools have been closed all year. 

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