Bill would allow Montgomery school system to charge magnet students for transportation
Sen. Madaleno says it gives school system options; public hearing set for Dec. 6
Montgomery's public school students in magnet, immersion and other programs could be charged for bus rides to their schools if a bill proposed by the county's state legislators passes next year.
Sen. Richard S. Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington, who drafted the bill, said he introduced it to give Montgomery County Public Schools a method to charge students in optional regular education programs for transportation provided by the school system.
Last year, as an option among broad budget cuts, the Board of Education considered the elimination of transportation for students attending magnet programs. It later backed off after an outcry from parents and students. The cuts would have saved the school system $4.9 million, or $1,026 for each of the 4,775 students in the programs, during a year in which the operating budget was cut from $2.2 billion in fiscal 2010 to $2.1 billion in fiscal 2011.
The proposed bill would repeal a Maryland law that prohibits Montgomery County from charging for transportation of students to certain programs, such as magnet, foreign language immersion and International Baccalaureate. Madaleno said Montgomery County is the only county in Maryland prohibited from charging a fee to students for transportation in these situations.
"Right now their hands are tied," he said.
The proposed bill does not specify how much the school system would be allowed to charge. Any charge would not apply to students taking the bus from their regular bus stops to their home schools and back.
Madaleno said school officials did not ask for the bill, but said he had conversations with school officials about the situation. Instead of simply considering whether to cut the bus service, the repeal of the prohibition would allow the bus service to be funded and continue, Madaleno said.
A public hearing before the Montgomery County delegation on the proposed bill will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Stella Werner Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville.
The chairman of the county delegation, Del. Brian Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac, said that after the Dec. 6 hearing, the county delegation's Land Use and Transportation subcommittee would likely consider the proposed bill. He declined to offer an opinion on the proposal.
"That's why we have hearings," he said.