All Your Questions About Charter School Transportation Answered

School Transportation

Are you considering enrolling your child in a charter school in 2022? These alternates to public schools are becoming more and more popular, but you don’t want to rush into making a decision. 

For many, charter schools are not feasible options because of the lack of charter school bus transportation. In The barriers that make charter schools inaccessible to disadvantaged families, the authors explain, “A family can’t choose a school if their children can’t get there.”

To help you better understand your school options, we are answering the most common questions regarding private school and charter school transportation.

What is the difference between private schools and charter schools?

Essentially, private schools are independent, non-governmental schools, while charter schools are independently run but are still supported and held accountable by government authorities. But, the biggest difference comes to cost. Charter schools offer free education because they are governmentally funded.

In contrast, private schools require students to pay tuition to attend. While private school tuition varies by state, “the private elementary school average is $9,638 per year and the private high school average is $14,522 per year” nationally. 

Do charter schools provide transportation?

Charter school bus service is largely dependent on the state where you live. Since charter schools are under the state’s governmental authority, they must follow the state’s charter school laws. Many states have enacted charter school laws that specify whether charter schools are required to provide charter school transportation. Here are two examples of state laws specifying charter school transportation from The Education Commission of the States:

  • Connecticut – Yes. The local or regional board of education of the school district in which the charter school is located must provide transportation services for students who reside in the school district unless the charter school makes other arrangements for transportation.
  • District of Columbia – No. However, some charter school students are eligible for reduced public transportation fares.

You can see your state’s charter school transportation laws on The Education Commission of the States 50-State Comparison Chart.

Do charter schools run school buses?

For charter schools, this varies from state to state and from one school district to the next. For example, some state laws for charter schools specify transportation must be provided only if the student lives within the district of the charter school.  

However, there are transportation services specifically designed for charter schools, such as The Eagle Bus Service in Charlotte, North Carolina. This service “provides safe, secure and reliable school transportation services to Charlotte area charter schools using cluster stops and route methodologies to conserve fuel and use buses efficiently.”

Are school buses privately owned?

With the exception of South Carolina, school buses are privately owned and contracted to a local school or school district. South Carolina is the only state in the nation that owns and maintains its own school buses. Traditionally, state funding covers the cost of school bus contracts, and most school buses are fleets from a pupil transportation company.

Do states specify who must provide transportation to charter school students?

Again, this varies from one state to the next. For example, Texas laws require open-enrollment charter schools to provide transportation to each student in the same way the public school district is required to provide transportation.

In contrast, New York and Illinois do not specify who must provide transportation for charter school students, but they do require charter schools to include their transportation plan for students in their charter application. However, states such as California, do not have any specifications regarding charter school transportation.

How far do students travel to charter schools or private schools?

According to a 2018 report by the Urban Institute, “Most students live within a 20-minute drive from home to their school. Older students travel farther to school than younger students.” Surprisingly, they also found, “particularly among older students, those enrolled in traditional public schools tend to travel as far, or in some cases farther, than those attending charter schools.” The study also found, “Typical travel times to school by public transit are significantly greater than by car, especially in cities with less efficient transit networks.”

In general, the travel distance to charter schools seems to be similar to the travel distance to what would be the student’s assigned public school. However, private school students travel farther than their peers attending public schools or charter schools.

How to find out if your local schools offer transportation?

For charter school transportation, start by reviewing your state’s charter school transportation laws on The Education Commission of the States 50-State Comparison Chart. Next, contact the charter school you are interested in to find out if they offer charter school bus service.

What is the difference between district-provided service, contracted service, and public transit transportation?

According to The Challenges and Opportunities in School Transportation Today, “Roughly 480,000 school buses are currently on the road in the United States,” transporting 33% of students to and from school each day. (Note – This also means that 67% of all students need to be driven to school or walk.) School transportation is provided one of three ways: district-provided service, contracted service, and public transit transportation. 

District-provided service means the school district controls all aspects of school transportation. It is the most common type of school transportation. The second most popular type of school transportation is contracted service. In this case, the school district contracts with a private school transportation service. Finally, some schools in urban cities utilize public transit transportation to get students to and from schools.

How can I get free transportation to school?

If your child is attending a public school, your child should receive free school transportation if they live at a distance that is deemed too far or unsafe to walk. However, this distance is generally around 2 miles, which many parents still deem too difficult for their children, especially if the route requires crossing dangerous intersections.

If your child is attending a charter school, this will depend on the state’s charter school laws regarding transportation.

What are other options for school transportation if it is not provided?

Fortunately, there are other options for school transportation for students if they are not provided by the school. The Challenges and Opportunities in School Transportation Today reports 2.2% of students get to school using public transit systems, 10.4% walk or bike to school, and 54.2% are driven in personal vehicles. 

If you plan to be one of the many parents driving your child to and from a charter school, then you should consider carpooling with GoKid Au/Nz. Carpooling will alleviate many of the school transportation issues by helping parents work with other parents to share the driving. GoKid allows you to create your own carpools with other parents you know and trust going to the same places at the same time (such as school).

What are the advantages of having a school-run carpool solution?

Since school transportation is an issue for parents and schools, GoKid has created a solution. Karpool Connect is an add-on for schools that helps families in your school find one another and form carpools conveniently. GoKid is already live in dozens of schools, including charter schools in Australia and New Zealand.   Our school partners are already pleased with the difference GoKid Connect has made regarding their school transportation problems. 

GoKid helps parents with help they really need: a trusted network of families who share the driving. Plus, GoKid makes it easier for kids to get to school, which leads to better attendance, a reduction in tardiness, higher enrollment, and less traffic around the school.

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