This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
"Transportation is a privilege, not a right," says the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Last week, the Philadelphia School District announced that 7,500 fewer high school kids would be so honored.
The move came as the District announced that it would close its $81 million budget gap with a mishmash of cuts and hopes.
In order to save $3.8 million, high school students living within two miles of school will no longer receive subsidized SEPTA TransPasses. The previous threshold was 1.5 miles.
”We would hope that this wouldn’t have an impact on students being able to get to school on time," said Fran Burns, who oversees student transportation as the District’s chief operating officer.
"Maybe there will be carpooling or different mechanisms of families helping each other to get to school," Burns said. "But … the hope is that there wouldn’t be an effect on attendance."
The change – which the District hopes will be temporary – will affect 4,586 students at District schools, 2,148 students at charters and 729 students at other nonpublic schools.
The District uses its own internal mapping tool to determine home-to-school distances. Using something like Google maps may yield "some differentiation," said Burns.
Last year, about 44,000 students — 25,000 District, 13,000 charter and 6,000 nonpublic — in grades 9 through 12 received subsidized school transportation.
The changes will not affect elementary or middle school students.
Burns said the District hadn’t yet spoken with SEPTA about the changes, but would soon inquire whether affected students could be eligible for the student discount that school districts receive.