How technology leads to fair funding for Florida’s school transportation
Did you know that most of Florida’s school districts use inaccurate bus ridership & attendance data to decide their budgets?
Precise data means fair funding. Florida Statutes (F.S.), state that the total amount of funding each school district receives will depend on the reported student ridership data during approved transportation survey periods. That’s one of the main reasons why transportation departments are keen on investing in technology that will provide them better budget allocation. This article highlights how school districts in Florida can stop wasting time and money due to inefficiency and manual processes.
During survey weeks, school bus drivers must submit their reports of the total number of students transported on their routes and stops to the transportation department. Traditionally this process is carried out in a very rudimentary manner with students being counted by hand and everything being written down on a piece of paper. This presents a problem because manual work is extremely time-consuming, and it usually entails that drivers must focus on tasks that are not a part of their core responsibility, which is driving the school bus.
Furthermore, insights on real time data are crucial for the management of school bus transportation. While “ridership” traditionally only refers to the number of riders, solutions like ReaXium School Bus integrate technology to provide a depth of related information regarding each student’s access such as where, when, and whether it was flagged for any reason. The quality of data captured when a student is identified matters and provides districts with exceptional tools for analysis & proactive response.
How do we help school districts achieve precision, analytics and automation for ridership reporting throughout the year?
ReaXium Devices are mounted on board school buses and serve as a GPS tracking unit, route assistant, and student ridership counter. The district can accurately monitor ridership on any of their buses when students scan their provisioned RFID-enabled school badges. The devices are constantly updating the system with their geo-location and the status of the routes and passengers.
In an interview, Martin County school bus driver Alfreda Newton, gave the perfect example on how the solutions helped her during survey weeks:
“When it came to writing the FTE report, the tablet helped us in a meaningful way. We did not have to really think a lot about who is riding and who is not riding a certain route. As you may know, we have been switching runs and the tablet does all the work for us in regards to counting ridership.” she stated.
This information is instantly available through the ReaXium dashboard allowing administrators to have real-time monitoring of their active buses and the riders onboard, as well as access to generate reports based on bus, route, riders, and more.
“When students scan their badges, it makes it easier for us because we can focus more on driving!” she said, adding that “School bus riders can be very consistent or not at all — especially considering that some go in and out of quarantine, live in dual households, or could be visiting with extended family. This makes it hard to remember every face and name. Even if they may be a new rider or inconsistent rider, the FTE report still picks them up because they have scanned their badges. This way we know that our reports are accurate when students are using the bus during audit week. This is great because there are many reasons why drivers may not be completely familiar with all students during this crucial week. This technology makes sure all students, consistent riders or not, are being counted and reported. All of this leads to us receiving fair funding for our school buses!”, she concluded.
Understanding Florida’s school districts’ needs.
As a Florida-registered, minority-owned company located in Boca Raton, and due to the course of our work serving schools and organizations across the state, we have identified major pains and challenges to school transportation management that can now be solved through technology:
- Knowing when, where and which students are boarding and exiting the buses.
- Accurately monitor live bus locations.
- Inefficiencies due to manual processes, paperwork and lack of automatization
- Generate accurate FTE reports during approved transportation survey periods.
We launched our flagship solution to address these issues, ReaXium School Bus, in 2016 at the annual BPAA meeting (Broward Principals and Assistant Principals Association), which was highly impactful for the attendees as we were able to sign our first customer and provide a service contract to roll out soon after the event. Since then, ReaXium has been commended for its innovative service, high-level of customer care, and creating a system based on customer feedback that was tailored fit for Florida’s school district’s needs.