Philly leaves school transit up to kids
At the start of the school year, 7,500 high school students in Philadelphia will have to figure out how to get to school without any financial assistance from the district.
That’s because, in an effort to save less than $4 million (out of an $81 million shortfall), the district increased the distance of subsidized transportation eligibility from 1.5 to 2 miles, or the distance between City Hall and South Philadelphia High School, a total of five subway stops and 45 minutes walking distance.
While the Pennsylvania constitution requires the state to provide a thorough and efficient system of education, the law does not require schools to bring in students to be educated. According to the Department of Education, “transportation is a privilege, not a right.”
However, it’s a privilege that many students’ families will struggle to afford. According to the Philadelphia School District, 87 percent of district school students are economically disadvantaged. One in four Philadelphia students come from families whose income falls below the poverty line. Two tokens every day to transport just one child to school would cost an extra $70 a month — on par with an electric bill or a trip to the grocery store, necessary expenses that families struggle to afford.
The transportation cuts are one of several potentially temporary measures to open schools on time, including reductions in school security, upkeep and vendor purchases. Philadelphia’s children will once again see overpopulated classrooms and understaffed schools without nurses, counselors, librarians and administrators. The fate of 1,000 employees hangs on whatever decision state legislatures make this fall on the proposed cigarette tax.