Student parking fees put up roadblock to busing solution 

Some districts only charge $25 while Wake charges $200

FIle photo

RALEIGH — At a time when districts across the country and in North Carolina have experienced mild to severe school bus driver shortages, offering affordable parking for students who drive themselves to school could help address some districts’ busing issues. 

However, student parking rates differ wildly across North Carolina and no district appears to charge staff for parking. 

The state’s second-largest district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, charges “a price not to exceed $25.00,” according to its board policies.

Buncombe County Public Schools charges $60. The district told North State Journal those fees go to “help to offset costs associated with security guards at each high school.” 

Triangle area districts like Durham, Johnston and Orange all charge $75. 

Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS), however, has the highest-priced student parking in the state, charging $200 for an annual student parking pass.  

That is just $20 less than an annual student parking pass at NC State University or the same cost as a person prepaying for parking at eight Carolina Hurricane hockey games.  

For the Fiscal Year 2023, WCPSS’ collected more than $1.84 million, a 62% increase on the nearly $1.14 million from 2013.  

At the March 18 meeting of the WCPSS school board,  new district Superintendent Robert Taylor’s budget proposal included cutting the student parking rate by $25. The fee had been raised $30 by the board in 2018, bringing the fee to its current $200 price tag. 

Taylor’s proposal seeks an 8% increase ($702.6 million) in funding from county commissioners and an overall budget increase of $58.3 million to the district’s current $2.2 billion budget. The current budget is nearly 49% higher than it was 10 years ago when the district’s budget was over $1.475 billion. 

WCPSS did not specifically say how the money raised from student parking fees is used.  

“The parking fees are recorded as district revenue which is used to balance the entire budget,” WCPSS Communications Director Lisa Luten said in an email response. “Funds are not specifically designated for a line item in the budget.” 

To date, the district has only provided top-line budget spending and has never provided the public with a breakdown of line-item spending details.  

“Insane!” was how WCPSS parent Kristi Moyer characterized the parking fee.  

Similarly, a parent of a southeast Raleigh student who wished to remain anonymous said the cost of the parking permit was “out of their budget,” and the fee “prices out lower-income families” from being able to allow their child to drive to school. 

“There should be a state law capping the amount an N.C. school district can charge students for a parking pass,” said Amy Marshall, the parent of driving-age students who attend WCPSS and also the founder and president of the Carolina Teachers Association, a teacher support organization that is an alternative to the union-affiliated N.C. Association of Educators. 

“Also, there should be enough parking spots to easily accommodate all students at any given school,” Marshall said. “I’d be interested to know what other county districts are charging students. I personally think it should be capped at $25 per student — if students are charged at all for a spot.” 

WCPSS, like most districts in the state, has been plagued by bus driver shortages. The district at one point had asked parents to apply to be trained as bus drivers to fill the gaps.  

Earlier this year, WCPSS set up a transportation survey to gain feedback on the reliability and safety of its busing system.  

The survey included a question asking parents if they would be open to hiring a private driving service, ostensibly to help with the bus driver shortage. The cost of such a service was put at $150 a week. 

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About A.P. Dillon 1252 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_