You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, May 24, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

Morning-only high school busing would save Ann Arbor schools $150K

By Danielle Arndt


Ann Arbor Public Schools once again is weighing heavy cuts to transportation for the 2013-14 academic year.

Jeffrey Smith | file photo

A suggestion to operate morning-only busing for high school students would save the Ann Arbor Public Schools less money than officials thought, according to information received late Friday afternoon.

District officials originally estimated operating pick-ups only for high-schoolers, and not drop-offs in the afternoon, would carry a cost savings of $233,000, half the amount the district would save if it eliminated high school transportation entirely.

But Communications Director Liz Margolis said upon further review, the district learned the cost to run "to school" morning service would save $150,000 — not half the cost of high school bus service.

District administrators proposed no longer offering high school busing as a way to save $466,000 en route to closing an $8.67 million budget gap for the 2013-14 academic year. The proposal is part of a long list of cuts the school board will weigh to try to pass a balanced budget before June 30.

Margolis said the $150,000 represents fuel and wage savings only from reducing drivers' hours. But drivers still would have to be maintained to operate the morning routes, so the district would not save on total wages or insurance and benefits.

AAPS continues to pay wages and benefits for the district's drivers, despite the drivers being employed through the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

AAPS contracts with the WISD for transportation services to save about $2.5 million on its overall transportation costs. A significant portion of this savings comes from the WISD — as opposed to the district — paying the pension contribution amount for drivers.

Margolis said in discussing the idea to offer morning-only high school bus service further, a concern came up about retaining drivers under this scenario, as their hours would be reduced — meaning they would make less money.

As the district and the Ann Arbor community became acutely aware of during the third-quarter financial report, the WISD already is struggling to attract and retain drivers and especially substitute drivers. Because of this, the WISD is having to pay substitute drivers a higher wage, AAPS Executive Director of Finance Nancy Hoover previously said.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools were required to budget $700,000 more than originally expected for transportation, which contributed to a third-quarter deficit of $1.3 million and an overall current-year deficit of $3.8 million.

The $3.8 million shortfall for the 20112-13 school year has led to AAPS borrowing money for the first time in its history to pay employees during three periods of low cash flow from now until December.

Margolis said that district officials will report to the school board at its next regular meeting their findings and the estimated savings of reducing high school transportation in the afternoon only. This morning-only suggestions was made by Trustee Andy Thomas at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Wake Up A2

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

It is as simple as getting rid of the district department chairs. The district in the 90's got rid of the curriculum chairs when they couldnt afford them and the district bought them back two years ago. They get cut the kids ride the bus.... its that easy. See when they get rid of the reading teachers then they dont need chuck hatt as the reading boss...

kindred spirit

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

Yet another place where starving the schools of their funding takes us. Again, I would rather live in a place where people come together to help everyone rather than live in a world where, "You are on your own" is the mantra. And you thought we had to have a lot of bake sales to fund schools in the past. You ain't seen nothin' yet.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

I put this in the other thread in response to a comment my Ms. Arndt. Danielle - How do they define "eligible students" Is it: 1) Students who live beyond the current walk zone 2) All in district students 3) All students who attend their local school - not including schools of choice 4) All students who attend the school I would love to see a breakdown of: 1) How many students are in the existing walk zone 2) How many students are on the existing bus routes 3) How full the buses are when the arrive? (e.g. is the bus in question 29% full, or do they plan for fewer students to get on the bus?) 4) If you subtract 7th hour and athletes from the totals - do the numbers change for ridership? 5) Is there a significant difference morning and evening? 6) For 9th grade is the percentage higher? These would be useful things to know. If the 29 percent was all students and it was more like 45% of the students outside the walk zone and 75% of the 9th and 10th graders, that would tell you something important. Right now the aggregate number is not very helpful, but I appreciate you fixing it. Also - what are they going to do with students who arrive early and have to wait at the end of the day - leave them outside (current practice) or are they going to offer them a place out of the weather and if so, what is the cost of doing that?


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2 p.m.

If you lived in a city with sidewalks everywhere and neighborhood schools this is a good option. What about all the students that live outside of the city limits or outside of aata bus routes? I hope that this all is worked out for the students who are not able to get to and from school/home.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Eliminate 7th hour. The majority of students who take this do so to get ahead of the game and eventually take higher level classes. In the past many students took summer school to free up time during the school year to take the extra classes wanted, now there are many online options, also. How much does it cost the district to have students test out of classes? This is another way of getting ahead. How many students sign up for this and how many actually do it? This costs money that is not covered by the students. Maybe we can't afford these luxuries anymore. Pay for Play athletics, reduction and now elimination of bussing, eliminating the library budget, yet we can still have our nice things.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

Late for what party? As you say "may", and this is the forum for opinions.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:42 p.m.

They may eliminate 7th hour AND high school busing. Late for the party.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

I've spent a great deal of time the past three years in all of the area schools and AAPS seems to be more focused on the perception of perfection rather than its students. One school on my first tour described it as a "celebrity school," another as "one of the best in the nation." And yes, there is so much that is indeed impressive but a consideration such as this goes to show how well the students as a whole are truly taken care of.


Mon, May 27, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

JAP, unfortunately this was not my perception but what the guides from each school boasted. They did not boast about the amount of students who graduate with minimal skills, often put into the schools version of special education not tailored to student needs. And oh, the discipline gaps, I feel terrible for you and any other teacher who has no leverage to control behavior. It's shocking considering all of the staff hall security.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

I have no idea why you have been spending time visiting the area schools, but your perception of "celebrity school" and one as "one of the best in the nation" are right on target. It is an attitude that AAPS has about itself, and they tend to ignore the other schools, bemoaning the fact that these are achievement gap schools, and discipline gap schools. I know for sure because I work at one of these schools!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

Instead of cutting 50 teachers to balance the budget, how about cutting the $4.5 million discretionary fund and putting tighter controls around credit card usage? A credible source sent me the following information on these topics which I thought I'd share with you: "No one knows how the discretionary fund is doled out." "This covers all the field trips and other activities that are run by the buildings, except after school activities that require teachers – because of the way the contract is written, after school activities have to have the points funded, and right now they are mostly not." "But if you want to go to Cedar Point with the Physics class or to the Detroit Zoo with a class, this is the fund that covers that during the school day. Mr Madison's pizza for the lunch bunch and the various homework clubs are covered by this money." "The bigger question is the district has a couple hundred P-Cards (credit cards) - and as far as I can tell, no one has ever talked about the guidelines for their use or how they have been used. Travel, hotels, meals, etc – anything that a credit card can be used for, can be charged on these cards. In every case where I have looked at P-Card use, I have found abuse." Is it the truth? If so, it's a huge scandal that employees with purchasing cards are misusing taxpayer money. That is exactly the kind of thing that a strong internal audit program ought to look at. $5,000 spent here hiring auditors to do a review would be money better spent than on food for the board of trustees! The lack of detailed written procedures governing the use of millions of dollars spent each year and the lack of a formal review process to prevent and catch abuse is symptomatic of a culture of waste and mismanagement in the AAPS.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

IF your "credible source" is so credible, ThEY are part of the problem. hat have they done about this? Remaining anonymous says they are milking the system themselves. Whistle blower protections are in place for all state employees. If you see somebody raping a child, and do nothing about it, you are evil as the rapist. When you cover up for them as your "source" is, then they are the catholic church.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Thank you, Stephen. I read every word of your posts, and applaud your ability not only to disclose and define problems, but also to propose remedies.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

@CalmDown: in considering whether or not my reliable source, who wishes to remain anonymous, is reliable or not, you might consider the fact that it was two of my reliable sources that allowed me to expose two of the most outrageous instances of public malfeasance in Ann Arbor city government in the past year. My reliable sources exposed the illegal gag order the city put on the fire fighters to prevent them from speaking to the press about the unsafe conditions in the fire department and to prevent them from speaking to the press about the foolish plan to close three fire stations and perhaps coincidentally reopen a currently closed fire station near the Mayor's house. My reliable sources also exposed the fact that the city went for nearly two years without a working ladder truck able to reach over three stories. Because these facts were exposed, the city's leaders, who were adamant in their unwillingness to change course when I discussed these matters with them privately, were embarassed into removing the illegal gag order, abandoned their plan to further gut fire safety and emergency medical rescue services, added 12 fire fighters and bought a new tower ladder truck. Also at the next election, additional council members supportive of public safety we're elected to office to replace those who were not. While the current situation is greatly improved BTW it's not perfect as the city is still two firefighters short of the minimum compliment to properly staff to national standards for fire safety and emergency medical response times, even under the best of conditions. It is my hope that the school board will be similarly persuaded by exposing the waste and the truth of how poorly AAPS are managed, to do the right thing, since a top quality public school system is a key to Ann Arbor's future success!


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

The pizza party mysteriously got changed into being paid by an "anonymous donor" when things started to heat up. I agree an audit needs to be done, U of M had to finally crack down on the credit card use of staff. I wonder if this would have been part of Dr. Green's zero based budgeting?


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

A 'credible source' ? - Oh come on.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 10:28 a.m.

Eliminate the " cookies and milk " for the board .. lets see thats 5k ...then hey how about eliminate a couple board members while were at it .. thats at least 145K ...the $$$ is better spent getting kids to and from school than wasted on the inept circus that the school board has become.. .problem solved...


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

Dude, the board gets a $130 stipend per month. While I agree it is a circus, it's not $140K.

Fat Bill

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 3:27 a.m.

I'm not sure a dollar per day will get it done. In addition, school employees are subject to background checks and standards that Select Ride employees aren't... If high school busing is eliminated, I can't wait to see the circus that drop off and pick ups will create...

Ann Arbor Parents For Students

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

Busing is a luxury and many people are not offered busing who live 3/4 miles from school vs. 1 mile from school. Why is it provided for some and not others? Pay to sports. If you choose to go to a school, you will have to stay there--why are we paying for busing expenses for personal education plans for students? You select Community High School, you stay there! Think ahead because Community does not offer AP classes and does not have band or choir. You get what you get. Also, if your school is Huron and you are choosing to go to Pioneer, they you need to find your own ride.

Basic Bob

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

@Thoughtful, Parents who know they will have trouble getting their kids to Community don't allow them to apply. This is one of the ways that CHS manages to get so many rich kids - most need cars. Other students may be just as proactive and independent, but realistic about their inability to get to this school. My daughter is 8 miles walking distance from school, 4 miles from the nearest bus stop, and she has neither a car or a valid drivers license. In addition, state law restricts the number of passengers a young driver can transport.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

Community students are not helpless. They are encouraged to be proactive and independent. Think ahead because there are hundreds more applicants for Community each year than there are openings, despite the fact that there are no AP classes or band or choir. Paying for the bus is against state law. If you live 3/4 of a mile from school and your kid cant get there, you are either helpless or your kid is lazy. You get what you get.

Ann Arbor Parents For Students

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Thanks for letting me know.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

Daytime buses between the high schools were cut LAST YEAR. Community students who want to take choir or band have been finding their way to the other schools all year, as have the students in the three larger high schools who want to play in Community Jazz Band.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:06 a.m.

Our school district, like many in this country, did not have bus service. Some of us walked, some of us rode bikes, many of us took public transportation, yes, city buses to school. We were offered discounted student bus passes, and I began riding the bus to school when I was in 7th grade, along with many kids from my neighborhood. We survived, and learned how to transportation.


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:49 p.m.

No afternoon transportation will likely result in many students staying after school while waiting for a ride. This of course means that schools will need to spend funds to supervise these students to ensure student safety. Not supervising students during this unstructured time will not be an option. I am an educator who has worked in secondary buildings for years and know how critical it is that schools not end up as a place to "hang" while waiting for some excitement.


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

And another thing is whenever it comes to budget cuts why does AAPS always look for ways to make cuts to transportation when its only 3% of the entire budget. AAPS always looks to cut the low people on the totem pole like bus drivers, custodial, and grounds.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

FatBill I agree that teaching is the essential "process" but you can't teach kids if they aren't at school. For many children the key to a good education is getting to school regularly. Some kids come from families that can't get their kids to school. We can talk forever about good and bad parenting skills but the bottom line is kids don't choose their parents and if they can't get to school, they don't stand a snowball's chance of being any different from their parents when they grow up. These days, schools serve a host of social functions that go way beyond instruction of academic material and for some kids, being at school is the single most important opportunity they will have in their young lives to become functional, productive adults. Busing is critical for these kids and to discount them wholesale is unfair, unkind and even costly in the long run. Cut back on busing but don't eliminate it and don't assume everyone will figure out a way to get to school without those yellow buses.

Fat Bill

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 3:29 a.m.

Sorry Robin, but teaching is the essential process in a school...


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

Just so that everyone knows that if high school busing does get eliminated there will be no transportation for the private schools also or shuttles in the am or pm for the builders and community students. As far as the private schools go they pay for their students to be transported. Also, since WISD has such a high turnover rate I think that may double because of the hours being cut. The hours would be 5 to 4 1/2 hours a day, who can live on that?


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

Builders is an extra program. They will have to figure it out if its important. And yes, we know that Community is a high school, so it is included. It is also a school of choice, so if you want to go to Community, you will figure it out. The big concern is getting kids to their home AAPS school, and if there is a better, less expensive way to do it than the yellow school bus, then that's what needs to happen. The kids are the priority, and their education, not the bus drivers. If the AATA finds a way to do it, then the AAPS bus drivers will just have to figure it out. Some bus drivers^^^ retained their jobs due to nepotism and favoritism at consolidation, not because they were the best drivers.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

I think parents would get better customer service if there wasn't such a high turnover rate. But I guess you don't care how this impacts the bus drivers that retained their jobs when the consolidation took place. Not only were there pay cuts but also the increase in benefits. As far as poor driving skills go I am one of the school bus drivers that transport your children to school and have been for the last 14 years. I love my job and have been able to support my family up until the consolidation. We are hiring so if you think.your driving skills ate any better please feel free to apply. Its not always the drivers of the buses that have poor driving skills sometimes its the general public. Also, to my knowledge the scheduling goes the bell times are the same as they were in 2010 yje difference os AAPS wanted more group stops and expanded the distance for the walk zone because the board of education thought it would help cut the budget in transportation. As far as the private school sector, these parents face the same obsticales as public school parents of there is no high school busing.


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:57 p.m.

So you think that high school parents will care about the turnover rate at WISD if there are no busses anyways? There would be more kids taking the bus now if not for the schedule, and the poor driving skills of certain bus drivers^ Do you really think AAPS parents care about the transportation needs of parents who send their kids to private schools?


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

So let me get this straight... Morning only high school busing saves $150,000 in costs - or the foundation grant for 17 students. No busing for the high schools saves $466,000 in costs - or the foundation grant for 51 students. I suspect that if AAPS goes to morning only busing that they will lose more then 17 students who are currently enrolled. I don't know if no busing would cost them 51 enrolled students. So morning only does not make financial sense, since they will end up with a net loss in the general fund running morning only buses.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

They will definitely lose students over this. Families are already stressed about this. Students are stressed because their teachers are telling them they might not be teaching next year because of budget cuts (not sure if that is appropriate?). Teachers are stressed and it's putting a damper on the end of this school year. But at least the BOE and AAPS administration can all sleep well knowing they looked EVERYWHERE else and these cuts were all they could find! (that last part is sarcasm folks).

Basic Bob

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 10:57 a.m.

"How are they going to loose (sic) students if they do not offer busing?" There are 5000+ high school students in Ann Arbor, the majority of whom live far from school, have no license or car, no access to public transportation. HUNDREDS of high school students already attend schools of choice: WTMC, Ypsilanti, Milan, Plymouth-Canton, Saline, etc. Now imagine that a handful of parents are fed up with the way AAPS treats the people who live on the outskirts of the school district, and decide they might as well drop their kids off on their way to work rather than lose 1-1/2 hours in the car every single day. An additional 20 to 50 students could be lost overnight.

Ann Arbor Parents For Students

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 2:21 a.m.

How are they going to loose students if they do not offer busing?


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

in times like these we need to start somewhere. I wonder if other places had these type of discussions before their school systems went down the tubes. Maybe we should look into it and follow a model that worked. If only there was a way to cut $5,000.00 more from the school's budget...


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 10:58 p.m.

So how are the kids to get back home ?


Wed, May 29, 2013 : 3:35 a.m.

Thanks for responding JA. I really hope families can be encouraged to work together and be proactive. Sometimes it just takes a little encouragement, maybe a teacher that can connect two parents that might possibly help each other out? I also think many families don't read the news, and have no clue about the busing situation, so they may count on a bus that will never come.

J. A. Pieper

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Thoughtful, I am not whining about this issue, I am just portraying an attitude I feel AAPS demonstrates. But, at the same time I might be hinting at some families who do not make an investment in their children's education, and are not going to be the ones to be proactive about making arrangements. There are some that have a sense of entitlement out there, and if it is not made easy for them, they won't make any effort. Sadly, I teach at one of the schools a distance from the high schools, and I worry about some of my families!


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

JA Pieper, I get where you're coming from, but here's the thing. If they cut busing for high school, right now families have three months to TRY to figure out a transportation solution for their kids. More than 3 months, if they start now and don't wait until a decision is made. But if parents make NO EFFORT to try to carpool, or at the very least communicate with other parents to try to find a solution, we can't feel sorry for every last one. The whining has to STOP. Quit with the POOR ME attitude and TRY to be proactive. If you tell your kids it's hopeless, not worth trying to find a solution, what do you expect their attitude will be? Lets see, if Johnny can spend the night at Bobby's house on week nights so he can walk to school the next morning, in return I can help Bobby's mom on weekends with childcare so she can go to work. Get it? I'm not saying this will work for everyone, but its worth a shot, and certainly more productive than whining.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

Hey people, AAPS finally realized that they need to get the students to school! Sadly, there are many families who have no way to get their children to school.This might cause problems with attendance. It might cause problems with increasing absences, which could cause decreasing grades. Then this might cause the gap to grow, thereby diminishing any progress in this area. So, they will get the students to school, and care not how they will get home! Oh, but there will be a bus to pick them up the next morning!


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Maybe a "Family Student Pass" to cover more than one student, at a rate slightly more than for a single student?


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 6:05 a.m.

Robin, monthly student AATA passes are $29, although that still adds up, especially if families have more than one high school student.


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

As far as AATA goes I hope parents are prepare to buy montly passes because AAPS is not offering those next year. I believe the passes are $59.00 a month times that by 10, who can afford that?


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

Skeet - In the dark, 10.2 miles mostly on 55 MPH speed limit roads to the North East Corner of the district from Huron. In the dark, crossing over and under I-94, US-23, and Michigan Ave for 11.4 miles from Pioneer to the South East corner of the district. Neither location route has much in the way of sidewalks and none of the major intersections have cross walks, nor are the stop lights setup to be pedestrian friendly. 3 miles, no problem, 5 miles, I could see. 10.2 miles? Really... OBTW...If you don't believe the numbers grab a Google map and see where these 13 and 14 year old students will have to travel in the winter in the dark.


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

Walking or running is always an option. I rode my bike 3 miles to school and back until I graduated. Parents could pick their children up in an automobile. AATA busses are always around. Im sure one of these would work...


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

It seems to me that the best option would be to privatize the transportation through Select Ride, with parents picking up the cost at about $1 per day, payable monthly. If they would operate a bus, using existing pickup/drop off points, that might be a win/win/win situation. These would not be charter buses, thus would not be in violation of federal law, or state law for that matter. Instead, it would be a parent contracted taxi service designed to get the kids to school in the morning and home in the afternoon.


Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

Happydave, do you work for Select Ride,or do you own it? If all of the kids at a certain stop can't afford $20 per month, will SelectRide take them for free?


Fri, May 24, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

Who would pay for those who can't or won't pay?