Pumping Up Education Costs

School districts across the state are afraid rising fuel prices are going to take a big bite out of their budgets in the coming year. Even pennies a gallon more can amount to millions of dollars in additional transportation costs. Schools are already concerned about having to make cuts.

Willie Scott is showing off a brand-new electronic diesel school bus, which gets about five miles more per gallon of fuel than a standard school bus. These days, every extra mile per gallon counts as fuel costs skyrocket. Scott says his school board will always find the money to transport the kids, but if the price of diesel keeps climbing, it could hurt the budget.

"I guess the school board would look at some other programs that might have to be cut or altered, versus fuel expenses, because this is an essential service for the school system,” says Scott.

Some school districts are averaging about 20 more cents a gallon for fuel than they were paying last year, and when your school bus only gets 7-12 miles per gallon, the extra costs quickly add up.

The frustrating part for schools is they have to plan their transportation expenses in advance. Their budgets may be fine for the year that's just ending, but if fuel prices continue to go up many districts may come up short in the middle of the coming school year.

The state will pump a billion new dollars into k-12 education this year, but when you take out for growth and smaller classes. State Rep. Curtis Richardson says they don't have anything left to absorb additional costs.

"We know that they're already struggling financially, but they would have to cut from other areas, maybe programs or services that they're providing to students. Probably would not be able to offer teachers the pay raises," says Richardson.

The longer the gas crunch drags on, the more concerned school districts around Florida are growing about where they'll find the extra cash. The state pays about 57 cents of every dollar for transportation of public school students. Local districts must come up with the rest. More than one million Florida school children ride the bus every day.