Hawaii Rescues 29 School Bus Routes From Chopping Block

flickr: Caitlinator

Amid public outcry, Hawaii education officials on Tuesday announced that 29 school bus routes slated for elimination will now be spared. That means 400 fewer students will be left stranded without a ride to class.

The Hawaii Department of Education on Saturday said it would have to cut 103 routes affecting nearly 2,400 students.

The department's updated list includes just 74 routes served by 91 buses. Half of the buses were eliminated through consolidations with other routes, half were discontinued altogether.

For most students, the school year begins on July 30.

Civil Beat has reported in its ongoing Taken for a Ride investigative series that school bus transportation costs have more than doubled in recent years, in part because bus companies abruptly stopped competing for contracts.

In an attempt to force the department to get serious about addressing the skyrocketing costs, the Legislature cut all funding for student transportation services for general education students two years ago. Then last session lawmakers only gave the department $25 million, leaving school officials with a $17 million puka.

The district has covered the shortfall by shifting funds from other sources, such as federal money that Hawaii receives because of the military's presence.

The impact of diverting that cash from other programs and purposes remains unknown. Board members have asked the department to provide answers, but district officials have said they don't know yet.

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