|August 23, 2007 Edition|
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The following is a statement from Bishop Robert C. Morlino regarding the reinstatement of school busing for Catholic students.
I am very grateful to the Madison Metropolitan School Board for reinstating busing for our children. Safe and reliable transportation for our students is very important to us and I genuinely and from my heart thank Ms. Silveria and the School Board for their important decision.
I would also like to speak to the issues that precipitated the loss of busing for our Catholic schools. In early April our school principals received a letter from Asst. Superintendent Roger Price stating that it cost 1.5 times more to bus students to Catholic schools than it did to bus students to public schools. Citing a state statute that allows districts to offer contracts, instead of providing buses, when the busing costs for private school students exceed 1.5 times the busing costs for public school students, the school district proposed to eliminate private school busing.
We immediately asked for the calculations that would prove that busing students to Catholic schools indeed cost 1.5 times more than busing students to public schools. Since Mr. Price declared it to be so in his letter of March 29 we assumed that the calculations had been completed and would be forthcoming. We did not receive those calculations, but only estimates of the actual cost.
Thus, we were placed in the very uncomfortable position of having to prepare to bus our own students at a substantially higher cost to both the diocese and the parents without ever being allowed to examine, and perhaps refute, the calculations on which the busing cut was founded.
As we explored establishing our own busing system we learned that once we had signed contracts with the busing companies, we would have been forced to honor them for the school year even if the calculations provided by MMSD proved to be faulty or inaccurate. Although we have Mr. Rainwater's assurance that the calculations will be completed in early October, and that when they are, we will receive them, as of today we still await these calculations.
I want to assure the parents of our students that while we had no advanced warning of this situation before April of this year we will not again be caught off guard. The parents of Catholic school children sacrifice in significant ways for their children to receive both outstanding education in the core curriculum and their faith. Many of our students are not even Catholic, yet their parents still choose to send them to our schools.
Our parents already pay their full share for public schools through their property taxes. They then pay Catholic school tuition, and generally volunteer at the school to keep costs down. I am aware of only one direct benefit these parents receive for their tax dollar - the safe and reliable transportation of their children to the school of their choice.
We repeat our request of Superintendent Rainwater to provide us with the exact calculations used to justify his request to the School Board to cut busing for our students. The District must have projected these figures in late March because that was when Mr. Price notified our principals that contracts would be offered.
We ask to be allowed to work with MMSD in the next few months to help reduce transportation costs across the board. We would have willingly changed start times and adjusted school hours to allow for the maximum efficiency had the District asked us to do so last fall. We were informed of the problem only after the district administration had recommended to the school board that private school busing be cut from the district's budget.
We have requested a meeting with the appropriate people at MMSD in October to begin working on a plan for next year that meets the cost saving criteria and still allows our students to use the school buses. I commit that we will work in good faith for the benefit of all the school children involved.