It’s unconstitutional, MD AG opinion calls PGCPS plan on school bus fees

Delegate Jolene Ivey (D-47)

District 47 Delegate Jolene Ivey announced today that on the request of Prince George’s County Superintendent Dr. William Hite she sought an Attorney General opinion on his plan to require a fee for specialty school busing programs. The result of that opinion isn’t good news for the superintendent or the board of education who continues to struggle with balancing their budget.

Specialty programs are schools students attend that are not their regular district school. Most students attend these schools for performance arts or other such programs and because the schools are open to students all over the county transportation costs are far higher than traditional buses. According to numbers from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of PGCPS the system pays about $1,900 per student a year in these programs for buses compared to just over $400 for students who take buses to their district boundary schools.

Earlier this month to balance the school system’s budget Dr. Hite and a majority of the board approved a budget eliminating transportation for specialty programs. Before the board voted Dr. Hite responded to a question from members his administration is working on plans to reconstitute transportation for the schools but based on a fee scale which they would adopt after the budget came back from the County Council. With news of the Attorney General’s opinion today it seems like that option might be off the table.

In a statement emailed to constituents and community groups today, Delegate Ivey announced that the Attorney General’s opinion found that any fee to transport students to or from school would be in violation of the constitution. In her statement she writes that she and the rest of the delegation are working hard to “bring more money back from Annapolis for our schools”.

Dr. Hite nor members from the Prince George’s County Board of Education have responded to news of the ruling. On February 25th the board adopted Dr. Hite’s proposed budget 8-1 with Edward Burroughs voting no. The budget has been sent to the county council who must now decide just how much county funds will be given to supply the budget. Executive Rushern Baker proposed a modest increase in his proposal to the council who have promised to review it closely before signing off.

Full Statement from Jolene Ivey

Dear Parents,
Dr. Hite recently asked me to request an opinion from the Attorney General about the constitutionality of charging for transporting students to school.  The short answer is that it is not constitutional.  The full answer is attached.
We’re doing all we can to bring more money back from Annapolis for our schools, so perhaps this path wouldn’t have been taken, anyway.  I hate the idea of only offering half-day kindergarten, cutting reading specialists for struggling first-graders or having fewer media specialists.  None of these is a good idea, but they’re all constitutional.
I have 4 children in specialty programs and wasn’t relishing the idea of paying for transportation, so I’m relieved, just like many of you are, that the Attorney General has found that we can’t take this path.  I know the money will have to come from somewhere to pay for all the programs that make for a great education for our children.  In my opinion, cuts shouldn’t impact the youngest learners.  We’re doing all we can here in Annapolis to minimize cuts to education, and I hope you’re all thinking about how to find the money to pay for our priorities, too.
Sincerely,
Jolene Ivey

Delegate, District 47

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5 thoughts on “It’s unconstitutional, MD AG opinion calls PGCPS plan on school bus fees

  1. BTW these cuts should not impact older children as well why discriminate? a 14 year old can not drive and will need transportation just as much as a younger child.

  2. This is and continues to be a constitutional issue. Paying for public busing is clearly unconstitutional. Now is it constitutional to bus some kids in the same community by one set of rules and not bus other kids (with arumentally a greater need) by a another set of rules? (See 10th Amendement and equal protection under the law clause.)

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