Posted on April 30, 2013

Seattle Taxpayers Foot Bill for Students’ Pricey Rides to School

KIRO TV, April 29, 2013

Every school day, while tens of thousands of Seattle Public Schools students wait at bus stops, KIRO 7 learned some 300 other students are chauffeured to school.

Private drivers pick them up from their front doors and drive them to school in taxi cabs and pricey Lincoln Town Cars.

And Seattle taxpayers are picking up the fares, which are estimated to be $1 million a year.

The Seattle School District, which has been criticized for the expense of cabs in audits for years, tells KIRO 7 the cab rides are necessary to comply with a little-known federal law.

If a student is forced to move to transitional housing because of economic hardship, The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act requires the school district to provide transportation to and from the student’s original school.

“The point of the law is to keep students in a consistent learning environment, to overcome the instability of being displaced from their homes,” said Dinah Ladd, the district’s McKinney-Vento homeless student liaison. “We don’t have enough shelters for all the students in transition,” Ladd said, admitting many of the students could live in private homes, far outside the district boundaries.


KIRO 7 investigators followed one taxi carrying two students from Seattle’s Beacon Hill to Bothell, where they are cared for by their grandmother. The trip is more than 60 miles round trip, and costs taxpayers more than $100 every day.

“I’m not that gung-ho on cabs,” said their grandmother, Yolanda. “It is a premium service. I didn’t expect for it to be as expensive as it is, but I’m like, whatever way you can drive them to be cost effective, I would gladly support that,” she said.” “I was wondering how long it would last.”

KIRO 7 investigators found other big districts, like Tacoma, use no cabs at all to comply with the law. They use their own buses to transport students as far away as Yelm, at a great savings, compared to cabs. {snip}


KIRO 7 talked to cab drivers who compete for the right to drive one student to school for an entire year.

“It’s good money,” said Hassan Almi, a driver who enters a company lottery to “win” a student.

“It could be more than $200 a day.  Some trips are longer,” he said.