The public shouldn't be surprised by the Hernando School District's attempts to scrimp and save, and the practice of providing courtesy transportation to clients of for-profit businesses is the latest spending to be scrutinized.
In this case, however, the clients are school children and the businesses are day care centers. The district provides bus transportation between schools and the centers each school day, but Superintendent Bryan Blavatt wants to end the service, saying taxpayers are subsidizing the bottom line of private enterprises.
School Board members are right to ask for an accounting of the projected savings before weighing in on Blavatt's decision. But, the board also must consider this spending in light of other budget cuts that have squeezed faculty salaries and increased extracurricular costs to students. Providing this perk to private businesses is an extravagance.
As part of its debate, the board must be cognizant of the fairness of its own budgeting. To balance the 2011-12 spending plan that is down $18.5 million, or 9 percent, from last year, the district:
• Instituted an across-the-board $15 per student activity fee to offset the cost of extracurricular activities and a separate, more expensive fee for inter-scholastic athletes.
• Required all principals to cut their school budgets by 10 percent.
• Negotiated concessions from unionized employees including at least a half-year's worth of a previously negotiated raise for teachers, and two paid holidays.
• Eliminated driver's education from the traditional school curriculum. The training is now available as an after-hours adult education class that carries a greater price and no high school credit.
• Did away with courtesy bus rides for children living within 2 miles of a school.
That final item should be at the forefront of the board's considerations. To save $800,000, the board told parents to start transporting their children to school or to walk with them on county roads because the district could no longer afford to extend bus service beyond state requirements.
The day care clientele should be treated no differently. The School Board will be hard-pressed to justify courtesy rides to private businesses if it can't afford to take 2,400 other children directly to the bus stops nearest their homes.