Need opinions on bus fees

A couple questions to the folks on RedMassGroup:

About 3 years ago my town decided to start charging bus fees to and from the schools.  This decision was made due to budget constraints as you could well guess.  The state Department of Education requires that only children grades K-6 remain eligible for buses without a fee applied.

My first question: I realize my town’s school board was complying with state policy by suddenly charging bus fees for kids older than grade 6, BUT doesn’t the town have to get approval before it can move a budget item to a fee based item?  In other words, they took the service away from the town and kept the money in the budget – and then started charging a fee for services previously provided under the towns operating budget.  What authority does the school board have to move things out of an operating budget and into a fee based pay-as-you-go system?  If no approval is neccessary couldn’t that lead to all kinds of abuses?

My second question: The state department of education has exceptions to the eligibility of transporation based on needs – usually financial.  BUT, there is also an exception when the safety of the children is at stake.  Well, as you noticed the US Congress has decided to postpone daylight savings time by one week in order to save a few bucks.  This now requires many students (not just my kids) to walk to school unneccesarily in the dark.  Wouldn’t that constitute an allowable exception?  My street has no streetlights or sidewalks on it – so if my kids wanted to walk to school they couldn’t as they leave at 6:40am when it is pitch black outside.

I ask this because I now pay about $700 per year to transport my 3 kids to school on a school bus (many towns are a lot higher).  I realize it is legal, but I question the method it was implemented and my ability to request an exception.  Has anyone fought this issue before a school board?

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