New developments on the plan to charge school bus fees in Hoover. In a reversal, state school superintendent Tommy Bice now says the proposal may be a legal option. Previously, Bice said charging fees would violate state law. Bice Wednesday met with Hoover school officials, who maintain the plan is legal. Bice is pledging to work with the school system on its financial problems.
Bice released the following statement:
"I had a very positive and productive meeting today with Superintendent Andy Craig and Board Chair Paulette Pearson. Based on the information discussed, let me clarify my position regarding the Hoover City School System.
I consider Hoover City Schools a great school system that regretfully, has found itself facing a challenging financial dilemma. We have confirmed that its financial challenges are not due to financial mismanagement but, rather, an annual increase in the total student population paired with a decreasing state budget allocation in vital areas of operations (in this case, transportation and current units) along with decreasing sources of local revenue.
In light of declining funding sources, Mr. Craig and the Hoover City Board of Education are considering viable options across multiple areas—not just transportation—to lessen the shortfall.
My concerns with the fee-for-service proposal for transportation are twofold, due to potential statewide implications:
1. It implies that funding for transportation is a local responsibility, as opposed to that of the Legislature as part of the State's Foundation Program.
2. It could place Hoover City Schools in a position for long-term legal issues that have the potential to be far more costly than the projected savings.
This does not mean, however, that a fee for service plan is not an option but one that will need to be vetted fully through all legal avenues. We have committed to work collaboratively with Mr. Craig and the Hoover City Board of Education in assessing multiple, viable solutions to its financial challenge, and our working relationship is solid.
It concerns me that I have received reports that the community has become divided over this financial challenge. I would urge all interested parties to come together with Mr. Craig and the Board in the development of sound and long-term solutions to the challenge, realizing that sacrifices will be required to ensure the financial stability of the system.
Finally, it has taken years to get to this point of financial challenge. The current situation will not be resolved in the immediate future, or with adjustments to just one funding area. It is at these times of challenge that great communities rally, not divide, and I have full confidence that will be the case in Hoover."