Pupil Transportation Issues Merry Larsen School Administration Consultant Department of Public Instruction
Overview of Current Law • School Districts are required to provide transportation to resident pupils in grades K-12 who live 2 miles or more from school (§ 121.54(2)a., Wis. Stats.) • Private school pupils must be eligible (§ 121.54(2)(b)1., Wis. Stats.) • Exception for districts that invoke “city option” (§ 121.54(1), Wis. Stats.) • District may provide transportation by a variety of methods (§ 121.55, Wis. Stats.)
Eligibility CriteriaPrivate School Pupils • Pupil must live 2 miles or more from private school • Pupil must live within private school’s attendance area • Private school must be located within resident school district or not more than 5 miles beyond boundary § 121.54(2)(b) 1., Wis. Stats.
PI 7, Subchapter IIParent Contracts for Pupil Transportation • Promulgated October 2003 • First applies to contracts for transportation during 2004-05 • Circuit court case: Kordecki v Central High School District of Westosha
Purpose of Rule • Clarify current law • Ensure consistency in application of law • Assist school districts in calculating payment amounts • Ensure provision of certain information to parents
Types of Parent Contracts • Two types of parent contracts: • Public or private school pupils (§ 121.55(1)(b), Wis. Stats.) • Private school pupils only (§ 121.55(3), Wis. Stats.)
Public or Private School §121.55(1)(b) • Compensation amount negotiated between parent and school district • If parent rejects contract, district must provide transportation by other means • If district and parent cannot agree on amount, DPI can determine if both parties request • No notification requirement • No eligibility criteria • School district receives state aid § 121.55(1)(b), Wis. Stats.
Disputes • DPI will determine amount of compensation if both parties request • DPI decision is final • Determination on a case-by-case basis, may consider: • Estimated cost to provide the transportation • Ability of parent to provide transportation • Other information deemed appropriate • District must provide transportation until contract amount is determined
Private School Pupils § 121.55(3) • May only be used for private school pupils • School district must meet criteria • Compensation amount specified by law • “Take it or leave it contract”--If parent rejects properly offered contract, district not required to provide transportation by other means • If district and parent cannot agree on amount, DPI can determine if one or both parties request • School district receives state aid
Eligibility Requirements • Estimated cost to transport the pupil must exceed 1.5 times school district’s average cost per pupil for regular (to and from school) bus transportation in the prior year And • Parents must be notified of intent to offer parent contract at least 30 days prior to start of public school term
Estimated Cost • District must make “good faith” estimate • “Cost-effective” means of transportation • Must use one of the methods under § 121.55, Wis. Stats. • Estimate must be in writing and include date • District must maintain written estimate according to board policy (§ 118.125(3))
Determination of Eligibility • Estimated cost to transport pupil must be compared to “school district’s average cost per pupil for bus transportation in the previous school year, exclusive of transportation for kindergarten pupils during the noon hour and for pupils with disabilities who receive special transportation.”
School District’s Average Cost • District must use worksheet provided in rule to calculate average cost • Worksheet must be maintained by district for 7 years following the school year in which the contract applied
Private School ContractsCompensation Amount • Annual payment equal to the greater of: • $5 times the distance (in miles) between pupil’s residence and private school; or • school district’s average cost per pupil for regular (to and from school) bus transportation in the prior year, excluding transportation for kindergarten pupils at noon and pupils with disabilities • Payment amount is per pupil, not family • Payment cannot exceed actual cost § 121.55(3), Wis. Stats.
Notice of Intent to Offer Contract • At least 30 days prior to start of public school term • In writing • Cite § 121.55(3), Wis. Stats. • Specify amount of compensation • Include statement that properly offered contract extinguishes school district’s obligation to transport pupil
Documentation Provided to Parent • School district must include the following with the notification: • A copy of the estimated cost to transport the pupil • The assumptions used in calculating the estimate • A copy of the completed worksheet used to determine average cost per pupil
Disputes • DPI will determine amount of compensation in the case of a dispute • DPI decision is final • Either party may request DPI determination DPI will review: • Estimate of cost to transport pupil; and • District’s average cost per pupil for regular bus transportation in prior year.
Definition of “Unusual Hazard” • “An existing condition which constitutes more than ordinary hazard and which seriously jeopardizes the safety of pupils in their travel to and from school.” (PI 7.01(2)) • Criteria is determined at local level, not prescribed by law
UHT Plan Development • Process starts with school board • Plan should include: • Map indicating UHT areas • Narrative description of UHT areas • Narrative description of hazards • Proposed safeguards for pupils • Plan must be submitted to Sheriff of county in which principal office of school district is located
Sheriff’s Role • Sheriff must: • Review the plan • Investigate the site and plan • Make a determination as to whether unusual hazards exist • Report findings in writing to the State Superintendent and the school board
DPI’s Role • Within 60 days, but not less than 30 days from receipt of sheriff’s report, DPI must: • Determine whether unusual hazards exist • Determine whether the plan provides proper safeguards for pupils • Pay categorical transportation aid for pupils transported less than 2 miles if district has approved UHT plan on file
Appeals • Two types of appeals • Appellant may be aggrieved by: • Failure of school board to designate a particular area as UHT area (s. 121.54(9)(am); OR • Determination by sheriff or some aspect of plan (s. 121.54(9)(b)) • Aggrieved person may request a hearing before State Superintendent
Request for Hearing s. 121.54(9)(am) • Aggrieved person must notify school board in writing that UHT area exists • School board must reply in writing within 30 days • School board must send copy of reply to sheriff and state superintendent • Aggrieved person may request hearing upon receipt of school board reply
Request for Hearing s. 121.54(9)(b) • Aggrieved person may request hearing before state superintendent • Request must be made within 30 days of receipt of sheriff’s report by state superintendent
Hearing Preparation • Prior to hearing, DPI: • Reviews school district’s UHT plan and transportation policies • Obtains and reviews sheriff’s report • Obtains all related correspondence • Creates chronology
UHT Hearing • DPI staff observe pupils walking to and/or from school • Administrative hearing is held in school district building • Witnesses (appellant, school district representative and sheriff) testify under oath • Testimony is recorded • DPI issues decision within 30-60 days
Contact Information Merry Larsen, School Administration Consultant- Pupil Transportation 608-266-2146 firstname.lastname@example.org Department of Public Instruction P.O. Box 7841 Madison, WI 53707-7841 Pupil Transportation web site: www.dpi.state.wi.us/dpi/dfm/sms/transhpg.html