If you’re a San Diego parent who puts your kid on a bus to school, you probably know that San Diego Unified started charging some families more than $300 annually for busing this year.

Then again, maybe you don’t know that.

Only half of more than 5,000 students whose families are supposed to pay for busing to magnet schools and other integration programs have paid up, said Phil Stover, the deputy superintendent who oversees operations in San Diego Unified schools.

The fees are supposed to be required for any families who earn too much to get free or reduced-price lunches. Students with disabilities are also exempt. But the district hasn’t had a clear way to enforce the rules. Parents also complained earlier this year that there was too little information about the fees and how to pay them; the school district ultimately put up a website and created a payment system.

But the end result is that San Diego Unified got less money than it had hoped.

Stover estimated that because the school district overestimated how many parents would have to pay in the first place — and because thousands of eligible families have failed to pay — the district has gotten $500,000 less than it ultimately planned. (Confused by the math? While the standard charge is $340, it actually comes out to less than $300 per child because families who bus more than one child pay less for the second child, none for the third.)

That hasn’t cut into the bottom line because the transportation department also found some unexpected savings by streamlining its routes, Stover said. But the school district wouldn’t exactly sneeze at more money right now: Its estimated deficit for next year is more than $120 million.

Want to learn more about what you could be charged — or what you maybe should have paid already? The website has FAQs, forms and more. Stover said the school board will likely look at the issue in January.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.