Keller ISD finds funds, but won't restore bus service

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on August 21, 2011 at 9:52 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 21 at 6:20 PM

KELLER — A new controversy is brewing in Keller after the school district realized it has more money than first thought.

The Keller ISD made dramatic cost-cutting moves — including eliminating free bus service — before discovering last week that the district now has a $6 million surplus.

The revelation, just before the start of school, angered parents who are scrambling to find ways to get their children to school.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said parent Jennifer Upton. “They can provide bus service. They just chose not to provide bus service!”

Upton decided against spending $640 a year for the district to bus her two children. Instead, she’s relying on neighbors to help get her kids to class on time.

“It’s a big inconvenience,” she said. “It’s costing money and time and frustration.”

The district saved $2 million when it decided over the summer to eliminate regular bus service to the 7,000 children — or nearly 20 percent — of the district’s students who had relied on buses in this sprawling suburban district north of Fort Worth.

Facing a $22 million deficit and a failed election to raise taxes, trustees decided to charge parents $370 a year per student to ride the bus.

Even with the surplus, however, there’s little support to restore free bus service.

“I do not believe busing is something I would support to be added back in,” said Trustee Lara Lee Hogg. “I’d like to see that money spent in the classroom.”

Especially, she says, since more state budget cuts are expected.

“This is a new time for school districts,” Hogg said. “I don’t think it’s something school districts can continue to pay for.”

She attributes the surplus to $4.8 million in federal education job funds the district was not expecting to receive. Trustees will meet next month to discuss how to handle the surplus.

“The board … may or may not make a different decision regarding transportation,” said district spokesperson Shellie Johnson in a statement to News 8.

The cuts have left parents like Christine Wood worried that families may now be hitting the road.

“I actually talked with some other moms,” Wood said. “A lot of the discussion was whether or not to stay in Keller.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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