Millions Spent Transporting Private School Students by Bus

Published 05/05 2014 05:37PM

Updated 05/05 2014 05:50PM

Kentucky is spending millions of public dollars to get private school students back and forth to class.  That number is  reportedly $18 million over the past six years.  Daviess County spent more than $200,000 last year.

How much is safety worth?

"I would say we're worth it," says Dan Halbig of Owensboro. His kids went to Owensboro Catholic Schools.  He says having students take public school buses has a lot of value.

"Every family that have children that go to this school or any other parochial school pays a lot of dollars in tax money for their children to ride it, plus for the other children to ride it to public schools," he says.

But it costs the commonwealth nearly $3 million a year to use public school buses to send parochial and private school students to class.  Daviess County officials say it costs them more than $230,000 a year to take kids to places like Ownesboro Catholic.  The Daviess County Fiscal Court reimburses Daviess County Public Schools about two thirds of that cost.

"This is considered to be a public safety matter," says Matt Robbins of Daviess Co. Public Schools. "So that all children, regardless of where they went to school, had the same opportunities of bus transportation under the guise of public safety."

Critics say the state shouldn't be using public dollars to transport private schools, or at least private schools should pay  a fee for the service.   They say the state's under no obligation to help families who don't choose public schools.  Owensboro Catholic School Director Ken Rasp disagrees.  He says its needed for students safety.  Rasp says it also gives families of catholic school students the same opportunity other families get.

"Our families do provide dollars that support that bus ride because they are tax paying residents to the state and to the county," he says.

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled the program was legal in 1999, saying it's fine as long as the money directly goes to the student and only indirectly to the school. 

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