Board members said busing students from all over the district to the Walton Way campus would be too costly. They also said free transportation is a privilege that is lost when students misbehave and get assigned to the alternative program.
“Until we get our full funding back, I’m not for adding anything new that costs us money that we can’t sustain,” said board president Venus Cain. “We gave them an option to get free education and transportation. We gave them that option. Children have to understand there are consequences. Parents need to understand there are consequences.”
Students are assigned to the alternative program at the Tubman Education Center on Walton Way when they are found guilty in a tribunal process of breaking the district’s code of conduct. They come from schools across the county and enter at different points throughout the year. Board member Barbara Pulliam requested the issue be placed on Tuesday’s committee agenda after receiving several complaints from parents who do not have a vehicle, the gas money or time to drive their children to the campus. Some also said their child was not attending school because of the lack of busing.
“The purpose of us being here is to educate children,” Pulliam said. “We are not a penal system. If we can’t get them to school, they will not get an education...I don’t think not getting an education should be part of their punishment.”
Board member Patsy Scott made a motion for staff to explore the possibility of busing to Tubman, but none of three board members present on the student services committee supported her motion.
Pulliam, who is not on the committee and could not cast a vote, said she is disappointed the issue will not go to the full board for discussion.
She said students are suffering, especially because Augusta’s public transportation system doesn’t have routes or times that can accommodate students.
Board member Jimmy Atkins said students and parents need to realize the loss of transportation is part of the punishment of suspension.
“I’m just going to have a hard time supporting this for the simple fact that we continue to furlough our employees, we continue to cut instruction days for our students,” Atkins said about the added expense.