St. Thecla Parents Keep Pressure on Chippewa Valley Board to Restore Busing
Chippewa Valley school board President George Sobah said he expects the board will make a decision on this issue after it has reviewed a recently submitted report by the district's legal counsel.
St. Thecla Catholic School parents continue to await a decision this week from Chippewa Valley Schools in regard to whether the district will restore the bus service it once provided to St. Thecla students.
For more than four decades, Chippewa Valley provided bus service to St. Thecla Catholic and St. Luke Lutheran schools for children residing in the district, despite both schools lying just beyond the district’s border. But two years ago, citing budget cuts, the district eliminated this service along with a number of other routes and services used by its own students.
A group of St. Thecla parents approached the Chippewa Valley board of education for the third time Monday to request the district restore busing for their students.
“I am representing all the parents of St. Thecla tonight, and I request the board to give us a decision in paper and please give us the buses back,” said Dr. Iris Daniel.
The group previously told the board that it was prepared to take legal action in the form of a class-action lawsuit to see busing restored.
“I understand our attorneys have spoken,” said parent Simon Haddad. “I’m still hopeful we can reach an amicable solution that supports the desire we all share which is our children having a safe, secure path to an education.”
What does the law say?
While Michigan law requires public school districts transport, or pay for the transportation of resident students to non-public schools within the district’s boundaries, there is no stipulation to transport resident students to non-public schools outside the district’s boundaries, as in the case of St. Thecla and St. Luke.
But there remains the matter of whether or not a 1966 voter mandate, which St. Thecla parents say compels the district to provide bus service, actually supersedes state law.
“We’d like you to keep it real here, stay with us, and understand what it’s like to be in our shoes here,” Haddad said. “But rather than work with us directly in an effort to treat all of our children equally, to this point this board has chosen to defend its recently adopted discriminatory transportation policy against our children.”
Haddad reminded the board that he, like other St. Thecla parents who reside within the district, pays property taxes and bonds to support Chippewa Valley. Although his own children will not benefit from this support in the classroom, he argued they should be eligible for the transportation it also funds.
“These constant reminders of cuts in per pupil funding don’t apply to our children,” he said. “We’re still paying tuition to send our children to other schools.”
To cover the cost of restoring bus service, Haddad suggested cutting two of the union positions that collect paychecks greater than $100,000 from the district.
“I hope you’ll agree that providing necessary bus service to children trying to get to school is more important that funding platinum pay packages for two employees conducting union business on school time,” Haddad said. “I would ask the board to immediately terminate taxpayer funding of these two employees and restore bus service for non-public school children without further delay.”
However, this solution is not truly feasible given current contracts and associated legal issues.
School board President George Sobah told the group he and fellow board members would need additional time to review the issue, having just received a report from their legal counsel, but should “move forward on this shortly and have a decision soon.”
Stay with Patch for more on this developing story.