The Kentucky General Assembly has increased transportation funding for non-public school children in the state Department of Transportation’s budget for the next two years.
The new budget sets aside $3.5 million per year to subsidize bus services for students attending non-public schools, including Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville. It’s an increase of about $600,000.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky’s leader supported the increase and expressed surprise that it was approved.
Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the conference, said in a news release, “The House had recommended the increase and then the Senate recommended even less than the current level. We thought we might end up somewhere in between, but ultimately the Senate agreed to the House’s proposed increase.
“In a session where nearly every state department’s budget was cut, this is quite significant; the first increase in several years,” he added.
This funding is distributed to cities and counties around the state and used to pay private bus services or pubic school bus systems to transport the non-public school children.
For Catholic elementary school students in Jefferson County, a private company receives a subsidy to transport students. But parents also pay a portion of the busing expenses, said Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“Even with the bus subsidy, the parents are still paying above and beyond that,” Schulz explained. “Since the amount at the state level has not gone up for several years, parents were continuing to pay more and more.”
The new funding “is a significant increase and it’s an increase that we’ve been advocating for many years,” she said. “We are very excited that the General Assembly has been receptive to that.”
In archdiocesesan elementary schools outside Jefferson County, students are transported via the local public school system, which is also reimbursed by the subsidy, Schulz said.
Schulz added that the subsidy is vital for students around the state — from cities to rural areas.
“Its critical. In Jefferson County, many of the students live a significant distance from the schools they attend and many of the roads wouldn’t be safe for the students to walk. It gives the parents another option,” she said. “So it’s certainly significant in Jefferson County. And it’s significant statewide because in your more rural areas of Kentucky, sometimes that’s the only option they have to get to their schools.”