CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Champaign Schools are preparing to pay back parents as an incentive for families to drive their own kids to school and alleviate stress on the bus company.
It’s part of the Transportation Reimbursement Program. But some parents have said it’s not as easy as it seems.
Some parents feel the process has been disorganized from the beginning. Some are getting emails from the district about it, and others are relying on word of mouth.
It’s a program that has been in the works since January. That’s when the School Board approved a transportation reimbursement agreement as part of the updated Schools of Choice model.
Families who qualify for the Yellow Bus Service can drive their kids to school on their own and get paid back in return. They’ll be paid based on when they sign the contract, but their child won’t be able to ride the bus anymore.
Here’s the catch: some parents didn’t know about it until recently.
Christy Arnold, a mom with kids in the district, got this email from Champaign Schools on Sept. 22.
She said she’s always taken her kids to school on her own and is glad to be a part of the program now, but it was a headache to get there.
“They’ve made me fill out the forms twice, and then they’re arguing that one of my students doesn’t qualify for the yellow bus,” Arnold explained. “He does because the yellow bus is what comes to our neighborhood, he’s the one that rode the yellow bus last year and it’s still the yellow bus this year.”
Arnold said she sent multiple emails, filled out forms and finally got her contract approved.
The reimbursement program will provide a refund to parents at the IRS rate of about 65 cents per mile.
“It’s a significant amount of money,” Arnold added. “For the middle schoolers families I’ve seen, it’s over $1,000.”
The district’s transportation website breaks down the program. Parents will get a check at the end of the semester, but Arnold still wonders if this is the solution to the bus driver shortage problem.
Parents are voicing their concerns on Facebook too, and have said they want to see better communication about the whole thing.
The district’s spokesperson said they’re down 15-20 drivers and the money is coming from the district’s transportation fund.