The School District of Philadelphia is expanding a program that pays parents up to $300 a month to drive their kids to school.
It’s hoped that the “Parent Flat Rate Program” will make up for severe bus driver shortages in the district.
The school district has 210 bus drivers and needs 105 more, according to the Philly Voice.
The shortage reflects the ongoing crisis in public education that sees tight labor markets and a demoralized education workforce under fire over declining student performance.
Currently, 55,000 students in Philadelphia use public transportation fare cards, 33,000 use the yellow buses or other school vehicles, and the remaining 13,000 are enrolled in the flat rate program, said local WHYY Public Radio.
The driver shortage is so severe that in some cases the district is using cab services to transport kids to and from school, said the district’s website.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has watered-down CDL licensing requirements for bus drivers in order to address the shortage, but training new drivers takes time.
District spokesperson Monique Braxton said parents simply submit a form requesting the service and it takes about 30 days for payments to be processed, according to the Philly Voice.
“I think it’s significant because it can help the family,” Braxton told Philadelphia’s Fox 29 News. “Say that your children are attending a school that’s on your way to work; it’s a win-win.”
Parents can opt-in to drive their kids in the morning and have them use school buses in the afternoon, but will only get $150 per month for that option.
Once parents sign-up, the district expects them to drive their kids for the entire school year.
“If at any point you wish to return to a district bus, van, or cab assignment, a school official must submit a Transportation Action Request (TAR). Please note – it is based on availability and may take an extensive period of time,” said the district on the program’s website.
There are some restrictions, according to USAToday:
- The student must be a resident of the city of Philadelphia;
- Students must generally live 1.5 miles or farther from their school;
- Busing services are generally provided to students in first through fifth grades, so the student’s grade level may matter;
- Designated schools have eligible students whose route to school is determined to be hazardous by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation;
- A student who has an individualized education plan specific to transportation;
- If their school receives district-provided busing services.
The application period for the 2023-24 school year is through October 1, 2023, said the district.
The program was first rolled out in 2020.