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Washington State Overview

Pupil Transportation Organizational Structure Overview
Pupil Transportation in Washington State is a section within the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The Superintendent of Public Instruction is one of nine statewide elected officials. The Director of Pupil Transportation is under the Assistant Superintendent for Student Support and Operations.

Staffing at OSPI consists of the director, a program supervisor, an administrative program specialist and a secretary senior. Legislative appropriation provides funding for five regional transportation coordinators. The coordinators assist school districts in preparing funding reports, provide local program review for school district operations, and participate in all aspects of statewide pupil transportation programs.

Washington State school districts are independent governing bodies. There is a relatively high degree of local control.

Pupil Transportation Operations Funding

Annual Operations Allocation reports are available online at: Opens in a new windows

The system for funding pupil transportation operations costs is based on the number of students riding the bus and the number of miles between their school bus stop and their school destination. Funding for basic transportation is not provided within one radius mile of the school of enrollment. Bus stop locations and destinations are reported as latitude and longitude coordinates. The funding is based on a five consecutive day student count that is due the third Monday in October. To and from school funding is based on the AM route counts. Actual student counts conducted by the bus driver are converted into a mode (the most frequently occurring number) for each school bus stop. The radius mile is then calculated and funding assigned using factors to provide distance weighted units for each mode.

The basic education route types funded are: Basic To and From, In Lieu or Private Party Contracts (contracting with parents or other parties to provide for part or all of to and from transportation), Pass/Token (to and from transportation using established transit routes), Midday Regular (kindergarten), Basic Shuttle (one way trips between learning centers), Midday 1 Day (one day per week kindergarten). Special route types are: Special (to and from) Special Shuttle 4-5 day; Special Shuttle 3 day; Special Shuttle 2 day, Special Shuttle 1 day. Special routes include special education routes, homeless, bilingual program routes, gifted education routes and other routes whose program time or location requires special transportation routing.

There are additional factors used to provide funding. Funding is adjusted for those districts unable to provide a minimum load and for special routes based on the average load per pro-rated bus. Additionally, all districts receive funding based on the number of K-5 students whose residence is within one radius mile of their school of enrollment. K-5 money is designated to be used for funding transportation within one radius mile, hiring of adult crossing guards, or walkway improvements.


Pupil Transportation Depreciation Funding

The Washington State School Bus Inventory and Depreciation system is online at: Opens in a new windows

Current lifetimes for new buses: 8 years for type A buses; 13 years for type C and D buses.

District Owned School Buses

The reimbursement system is based on the concept of replacing buses at the end of their system life. School districts are required to fund the initial purchase of buses out of local funds. The state then provides reimbursement for that bus based on the current year state price. (The state price is established through a state quote bid that school district’s can also use to purchase school buses.) This results in variation in payment each year based on the change in price from year to year. There is a deduction in the amount of the assumed interest payment for each bus based on the assumption that the district is holding the annual payments in an account for the replacement of that bus.

Payments to school districts for district owned buses can only be used for the purchase of school buses.

Contractor Owned School Buses

The reimbursement for contractor owned buses is a straight line depreciation system based on the current state price (assuming a new bus being placed on the system). The payment is made to the school district, not the contractor. The school district can use such allocation to assist in paying for the costs of the contract.

School Bus Driver Overview

Washington State school bus drivers are authorized through the Pupil Transportation section at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to drive school buses at individual school districts (there is no statewide authorization/certification process).

School bus drivers are subject to Washington State Patrol and FBI background checks upon initial hire. Drivers must annually certify that they continue to meet requirements. Drivers must maintain current first aid certification.

Initial school bus driver training is performance based (there is no minimum number of training hours required). There is an annual inservice requirement (typical inservice time is 3 hours). Training topics and materials are developed and provided by a statewide training committee overseen by OSPI.

School Bus Driver Instructors are trained by OSPI and authorized to train school bus drivers. There is a 40 hour training course for initial school bus driver instructor authorization and an eight hour annual inservice requirement.


School Bus Inspection Overview

Washington State School Buses are subject to minimum specifications established by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The Washington State Patrol (WSP) Commercial Vehicle Division conducts inspections of school buses.

All new school buses are required to pass an initial school bus inspection prior to OSPI issuing a School Bus Operation Permit. The inspection covers compliance with Washington State specifications and safety items. A School Bus Operation Permit is required prior to using the bus to transport students.

There is an annual safety inspection of 100% of school buses by the WSP. School buses failing to meet requirements are placed out of service until repairs are confirmed. The annual 100% inspection is scheduled in advance. There is an additional annual 25% inspection conducted on a non-announced basis. School buses are also required to undergo inspection after major modification or repair.

School bus specifications and inspection manuals are available online at: Opens in a new windows

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