Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 10, 2017

Another one rides the bus

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

So, for those of you with kids in the school district and are involved in any sort of PTA fundraising you will know about the incredibly high cost for transportation for school kids.   Because the District has required that all schools only use a select number of transportation companies for any school related activities, schools are faced with just a handful of transportation company having a de facto monopoly on transporting children for this school district.

Now this may not be as big of a deal for PTAs that fundraise between $60 – 100K per year, but for PTAs like Ruby Bridges it’s a big fucking deal.

As you remember we’re actively fundraising for Science Camp for Ruby Bridges’s 5th grade class.  This is an annual event that all students at Ruby Bridges knows about and looks forward to every year.  I believe the last time I posted about our Go Fund Me campaign I mentioned that the costs had risen dramatically from last year because of the need for a wheelchair accessible bus.

Well, only last week we found out that that bus company even with the almost 50% increase from last year gave away the dates that the school had reserved for Science Camp.  The alternative was to contact another approved transportation company who quoted the school another $2000 on top of the already expensive cost from the first bus company.

The District essentially hand ties PTAs and school sites by saying, “hey you can only use these companies” which then gives the company carte blanche to charge whatever premium they want because they know that they are one of only a few options for these school sites.  It’s not the School District who is expected to pony up the money for these services, it’s the parents, teachers, and community that fundraise year after year to provide additional enrichment for Alameda students.  Year after year parents and teachers have to go begging for every bit of additional money friends and family can spare in order to provide extras for their kids.

And, naturally, because these enrichment opportunities are only available because of funding from non District sources the inequity between fundraising powerhouse PTAs and PTAs with 75% of its students eligible for free and reduced lunches grows and grows despite the platitudes from the School District about valuing equity.  But that’s a whole other really touchy issue that I don’t have the time or the head space to get into right now.

With that said.  Here’s another pitch for Ruby Bridges 5th Grade Science Camp’s Go Fund Me campaign.  We’re still short and now we’re even shorter because of the additional $2000 to be raised.  So many thanks to those who have already contributed and thanks to those who can help out in any way they can.

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38 Comments »

  1. Last spring my youngest daughter’s 5th grade class had an overnight science camp event that was carpooled by a group of parents. It took some paperwork (copy of auto insurance etc) but was really easy to pull off. Some number of the driving parents stayed at overnight camp as chaperones & helpers, but most just dropped off and picked up later at end of camp.

    Could this be a way for RB PTA to save some money?

    Comment by dave — February 10, 2017 @ 6:29 am

    • We’ve thought about that, our PTA has talked endlessly about doing things like renting those huge commuter style vans to carry more kids. Apparently car rental companies won’t agree to that if you’re transporting kids.

      If we’re really really short we might have to rely on that, but knowing the families that we’re pulling from for 5th grade alone, we might end up being short cars and drivers because there’s a significant number of families without personal vehicles.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 10, 2017 @ 6:35 am

      • In addition to the problems of finding parents that have vehicles and that can take time off from work, there are very specific insurance requirements that the district requires. It can add an extra burden to families that don’t carry auto insurance with levels high enough if they have to pay for more coverage. Apparently some people can negotiate with their insurance company for one day of extra coverage to cover the field trip, but not all insurance companies will do that. Listed below are the minimums from form E-5 that the district requires. The driver must provide proof to the school site.

        I have met the minimum insurance requirements as listed below:
        Bodily Injury Liability: Authorization by responsible school
        Each Individual $100,000 official
        Total Each Accident $300,000
        Property Damage Liability $25,000
        Medical Payments $5,000
        Uninsured Motorist Coverage: ________________
        Each Individual $100,000
        Total Each Accident $300,00

        Comment by Maria T. — February 10, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

  2. Our school field trips rely on parents driving too. Not ideal, especially with younger kids who need proper passenger safety constraints and not all parents are well educated on that. Its also harder for schools where most parents work full time.
    If the district is going to mandate suppliers then it needs to negotiate the pricing and terms with those suppliers – that’s how procurement works. They could negotiate rates by leveraging the use across schools. To do limit supplier selection but allow inconsistent and unlimited pricing sounds irresponsible. That’s now how business works.

    Comment by BayGirl — February 10, 2017 @ 6:48 am

  3. Are bus companies not on the list quoting lower prices?

    Comment by MP — February 10, 2017 @ 7:26 am

    • There’s a former Ruby Bridges family that owns a transportation company. From what I understand they used to provide the 5th grade science camp with a very low quote making it the bus cost more affordable. It’s my understanding they weren’t able to complete whatever requirements the District asked for in order to become an approved vendor.

      We haven’t sought out non approved bus companies, because we wouldn’t be able to use them anyway.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 10, 2017 @ 7:39 am

      • Unfortunate. I’m sure there are reasons for the District’s rules (maybe they are state rules, or maybe it is a contract, who knows) but I’d guess that lower quoted ride would work out just as well and just as indemnified.

        Comment by MP — February 10, 2017 @ 8:01 am

  4. Otis PTA raises $150K per year. They are your sister PTA. Sounds like a chance for Alameda to put its equity money where it’s everyone belongs here mouth is.

    Comment by BMac — February 10, 2017 @ 7:28 am

  5. What is your deadline? We have a fundraiser at Nea coming up and I bet we could raise some $$ there for Ruby Bridges. We could also help sell raffle tickets during the silent auction. Lmk. We can make this happen.

    Comment by Gaylon — February 10, 2017 @ 7:59 am

    • I’ll contact you offline about this, thanks for the offer! Science Camp is early this year, scheduled for mid-March so we’re really hustling.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 10, 2017 @ 8:00 am

  6. Hi Lauren,

    Just to clarify: Under state law, public school districts can only contract with bus companies that have School Pupil Activity Buses (SPAB) certification and $1 million in liability insurance and that meet state licensing requirements. These laws are in place to protect student safety. Right now the district contracts with eight bus companies that meet those requirements.

    I know district staff is always willing (and often does) vet new companies that school sites would like to add to the list. But if those companies don’t meet the state’s requirements, we can’t allow students to be transported in them – even if those companies offer a cheaper price.

    If the Ruby Bridges PTA (or staff) would like more information (or if you think there’s cheaper bus company that meets state requirements), please talk to us! We’d love to help but can’t approve bus companies on price alone.

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD Community Affairs) — February 10, 2017 @ 9:21 am

    • Thanks for sharing Susan. It makes sense that there are regulations and requirements we need to comply with.
      Do you know if AUSD does any price negotiation or go through a formal procurement process with the bus companies as part of the contracting process? In the commercial world transportation costs went down this year, and there seem to be multiple providers for competition. Is this an opportunity that has been considered for the longer term?

      Comment by BayGirl — February 10, 2017 @ 9:50 am

    • Is there an official website that lists companies with School Pupil Activity Buses (SPAB) certification and that meet state licensing requirements, or some other way for PTAs to efficiently assist the District with price shopping?

      Comment by MP — February 10, 2017 @ 10:18 am

  7. Back to the parent driving option, I volunteer at Paden, and got fingerprinted so I could help chaperone field trips. I would be happy to lend my driving experience, and a vehicle that can take 4-5 kids, and I am sure parents at other schools would be delighted to help out as well.

    Comment by Doug Biggs — February 10, 2017 @ 11:43 am

    • I drove for my child’s trip this year, too (all paperwork, fingerprinting complete). I would be happy to drive your students to and fro. Let me know if you would like me to recruit other approved drivers.

      Comment by Michelle P — February 11, 2017 @ 12:39 pm

  8. Hi BayGirl, While there are “multiple providers” of bus services, there are not multiple providers of bus services who can meet the state requirements. And unfortunately, there are hundreds of school districts who need these kinds of transportation services for students. In other words, demand is high and supply is limited.

    In answer to MP’s questions: We don’t know of a centralized list of bus companies that are SPAB certified (although that’s a great idea!). Again, if parents or community members know of bus companies that they think might qualify, we’d be happy to take the names and vet them to make sure they meet state requirements.

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD Community Affairs) — February 10, 2017 @ 11:52 am

    • Understand and thanks for giving us more insight. To me 8 providers, which is the number you mentioned are currently contracted with, would be multiple. At least enough competition to have a bit of leverage and avoid a 50% increase in fees within a year.

      Comment by BayGirl — February 10, 2017 @ 5:04 pm

  9. Tell you what, Ms Do. You post a recent honest facial picture on this blog and I’ll kick in another hundred.

    Comment by jack — February 10, 2017 @ 5:08 pm

    • This comment is creepy and gross.

      Comment by Angela — February 10, 2017 @ 8:12 pm

      • Not creepy or gross. Ms Do is notorious for not posting her photo anywhere. Besides, we all know what you look like, Angela.
        However, a photo of Jack is difficult to find.

        Comment by vigi — February 11, 2017 @ 11:52 am

        • Why would one be notorious for not posting one’s photo?

          Comment by BC — February 11, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

        • I’d be happy to post my photo for a hundred $s and donate it along with the hundred $s Do gets when she posts her photo. That comes to 10% of the total she needs so I’m sure we’ll join our photos together so everybody can ride the bus.

          Comment by jack — February 11, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

        • “…but for PTAs like Ruby Bridges it’s a big fucking deal.”
          But not a big enough deal to get 2 hundred $s in exchange for a click on the keyboard.

          Comment by jack — February 12, 2017 @ 9:49 am

    • What kind of nonsense is that? Holding kids’ field trip funding hostage for some weirdo-bug-up-your-nose obsession you’ve got?

      Comment by Jordan1324 — February 13, 2017 @ 10:45 am

  10. Solution: like Piedmont, make all money raised go to all Alameda schools, not just “your” school. Then draw from this larger pool for an equal number of field trips, computers, art supplies and extras. It is shameful on our island that well-meaning parents on one end have much less than those on the other. Why should vans purchased by the high schools sit vacant on their lots when Ruby Bridges needs them for trips like the science camp? Why should any school have more than another?

    Comment by Captain Obvious — February 11, 2017 @ 6:57 am

    • The district funds schools equally. If Title 1 and other programs are fully accounted the lower socioeconomic schools have a small advantage in per student funding.

      PTA funding is different school to school but that is not the district. A PTA is a private organization operating on its own. If a PTA votes to send its funds to another campus that is their right, and it has happened more than once.

      The district cannot force a PTA to do that nor should it. If they did, parent fund raising would fall sharply.

      Comment by dave — February 11, 2017 @ 8:54 am

      • CO’s combination of conservatism (Trump-sympathy, hostility to the school parcel tax) and apparent egalitarianism (above) smacks more of resentment than it does of any real concern for students.

        Comment by BC — February 11, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

      • Dave, you either drank the kool aid or live on the east end. Funding schools equally and ensuring equity throughout the district are NOT the same thing. Perhaps Ms. Davis (or whomever from AUSD chooses to respond) could post the expenditures of Unrestricted Funds by school site and per capita for the most recent school year. While we are at it, how about the amount of Measure A or Measure B1 parcel tax money spent or earmarked for each school site.

        Comment by SchoolBoard 2018 — February 13, 2017 @ 5:56 pm

        • SchoolBoard 2018,

          That information is posted at http://tinyurl.com/AUSD-sitebudgets-1617.

          A few definitions: “Unduplicated students” are those students who are low-income, English Language Learners, or foster youth (that’s the term the state uses).

          Under the state’s “Local Control Funding Formula” (LCFF), all school districts get a “base grant” per student (that’s the “Unrestricted General Fund”) plus a “Supplemental Grant” based on the number of unduplicated students at each school site. (School districts with more than 55% “unduplicated students” also get a “concentration grant” from the state, but AUSD doesn’t qualify for that.)

          “Local Grants & Donations” refers primarily to PTA funds.

          The chart also shows how many full-time employees are each site.

          For more details on how state and federal funds are spent at each school site, you can go to AUSD’s “Local Control Accountability Plan” at http://tinyurl.com/AUSD-LCAPs. In the 2015-16 plan, information on how the funds are spent across the district and per site starts on page 116.

          Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD Community Affairs) — February 14, 2017 @ 9:35 am

        • Per student spending approx 40% higher at Ruby Bridges and Maya Lin than at the East End schools so derisively cited by SB18.

          Is this the part where he/she pops in to admit error?

          Comment by dave — February 14, 2017 @ 11:15 am

        • Thank you, Ms. Davis. Dave, this is the part where I say re-read what I wrote. With respect to unrestricted funds, RB receives 11 percent more funding than Maya Lin, and a mere 9.5 percent more than Earhart. If you think that Title 1 funds provided by the State, which has been woefully underfunding education in general, brings a school with a 79 percent “unduplicated student” population on par with counterparts, I would disagree. Also, unfortunately, even with a 79 percent unduplicated population at RB, AUSD does not meet the State’s 55 percent threshold for a “concentration grant”.

          Comment by SchoolBoard 2018 — February 14, 2017 @ 11:38 am

    • Piedmont: The median household income is $212,222. So the poorest school in Piedmont likely raises the same amount of funds as the wealthiest Alameda schools. Maybe PTA should have PTA funds shared across the county.

      Comment by Mike McMahon — February 12, 2017 @ 9:40 am

  11. Hi Lauren. Bus costs are a huge problem on the variety of levels you mention, no doubt. Reprimanding the district for vetting and contracting with a few companies, however, is not constructive, in my opinion. I can’t imagine it’s a better idea or even realistic to loosen up the transportation options — we care about the safety of kids, don’t we?. Do you have evidence the contacted bus companies know they have a “monopoly”? Fact is legitimate busing companies have plenty of expenses to cover.

    That all said, could AUSD, Alameda PTAs and other ed orgs like AEF put their heads together to improve the situation? You bet — and that’s happening at this month’s PTA Council meeting, which is a great monthly forum for collaborating and mutually-respectful solution-finding among community leaders. You and other PTA members are always welcome to attend and to contact me to request an issue to be discussed: alamedaptac.org.

    Jennifer Hastings, Alameda PTA Council presdient

    Comment by jennifer8hastings — February 13, 2017 @ 11:29 am

    • From my understanding when asked about the ability to scale up and down with the bus cost depending on the eventual number of students or the need for wheelchair access we were told that the cost was the cost because there was so much “demand.”

      The dates, of course, did not change from the initial company offering us a rate $2000 less that was “given away” without notification to our school.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 13, 2017 @ 11:38 am

      • Lauren, can you clarify who was asking whom and who was doing the telling in your first sentence? Also, did the original bus company make the mistake with the dates, or did AUSD? In my experience, it’s usually the bus company that confuses their own scheduling.

        Comment by jennifer8hastings — February 13, 2017 @ 2:24 pm

        • And the demand is coming from more than just AUSD, I assume.

          Comment by jennifer8hastings — February 13, 2017 @ 2:26 pm

        • The scheduling for the bus was done by RB’s office manager. These are usually done via email. Naturally AUSD has no control over the scheduling for the bus companies, but the requirement for the use of only a select number of bus companies is an AUSD policy, which school sites must follow and therefore be hand tied by whatever the bus companies determine is fair market value given the supply and demand irrespective of the school’s funding or ability to fundraise.

          Comment by Lauren Do — February 13, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

  12. “…the requirement for the use of only a select number of bus companies is an AUSD policy”

    This is incorrect. AUSD’s policy is to use only bus companies that have SPAB certification, the requisite amount of insurance, and drivers with the correct licensing. This is mandated by state law. Currently, we are using eight local companies that meet these requirements, but we would be happy to add more companies if we can identify them.

    Comment by Susan Davis (AUSD Community Affairs) — February 13, 2017 @ 3:50 pm


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