A meeting between the School District of Philadelphia and SEPTA Friday is being described as “productive.” The parties said they’re optimistic they’ve found a way to save the current student Transpass system, which the District threatened to cut because of it’s own financial struggles.
The School District is facing a $629 million budget gap next year, due primarily to drastic proposed cuts in state and federal funding.
School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that would leave the District with a cash flow problem because state reimbursement for student bus service and Transpasses is provided 12 to 24 months after the district purchases SEPTA passes, buys fuel and pays bus drivers. “Given the cut in funding, we don’t have the usual flexibility with our funds to be able to wait a whole year for reimbursement,” said Gallard. “Usually what we would be able to do is have enough funding to be able to allow us to wait for the whole year, this time we will not.”Gallard said the district is working with SEPTA to see if there’s a way to avoid the threatened cuts in student Transpasses. They’re looking to shorten the delay between paying SEPTA and getting reimbursed by the state. A SEPTA spokesperson said the agency is optimistic about a deal.Over 34,000 Philadelphia public school students and nearly 12,000 private school kids rely on student Transpasses to get to and from school each day. Gerald Wright, from the group Parents United for Public Education, says the District should have explained this earlier.”If it’s a cash flow issue, it should be stated as a cash flow issue,” said Wright. “A lot of people are upset that they might not have transportation next year for their kids. The anxiety that parents are feeling should not be heaped on them, when it’s not necessary.”SEPTA and the District are expected to meet again next week.