Halifax, NS (13 January 2015): A new AIMS research report, “Education on Wheels,” shows that student transportation costs are rising steadily across Maritime Canada, even as student enrolment declines, and that provincial governments in the region are missing opportunities to achieve cost and energy efficiencies.
The authors, Paul W. Bennett and Derek M. Gillis, demonstrate high spending on managing the school bus fleet absorbs scarce resources that would be better spent in the region’s classrooms. It’s time, they claim, to seize the opportunities for cost and energy efficiencies, including merging management systems, computerizing route scheduling, and adopting school-level active transportation plans.
Dr. Bennett is Founding Director of Schoolhouse Consulting and Adjunct Professor of Education, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS and Mr. Gillis is an independent research consultant specializing in sustainable transportation research and program development.
“Education on Wheels: Seizing cost and energy efficiency opportunities in student transportation” shows that busing students is taking a bigger and bigger slice of the public education pie. In Nova Scotia, for example, student transportation costs have increased by 11 per cent, from $64.2 million to $71.2 million, at a time when overall P-12 enrolment shrunk by 8.3 per cent. This reflects a regional trend in which per student costs are increasing and these costs are absorbing taxpayer dollars that could otherwise be spent in the classroom.
The authors describe student transportation as a “hidden policy issue” that deserves more attention from the public and policymakers. “We need to start thinking about how student transportation policy can factor into public discussions about containing education costs and creating liveable, walkable communities,” said the report’s lead author, Dr. Bennett.
The authors put forward a series of ten recommendations for policymakers. These include:
- Tapping into the unrealized potential of Joint Board Sharing in transportation services
- Improving route management and energy efficiencies by contracting services, eliminating duplicative bus routes, ordering replacement buses with fuel-efficient engines
- Developing and implementing reliable performance metrics for student transportation
- Undertaking provincial audits of student transportation services
“The time is ripe for provincial and school district authorities to tackle the growth in student transportation expenditures,” said Dr. Bennett. “There are immediate steps that can rein-in growing student transportation costs and identify cost and energy efficiencies in this often-neglected domain of educational operations.”
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Paul W. Bennett, Director | Schoolhouse Consulting
Ben Eisen, Director of Research and Programmes | Atlantic Institute for Market Studies