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School Bus Funding for Florida School Districts: Increasing Ridership

Three Florida school districts increased their student ridership count and received fairer funding allocations with our student ridership tracking solution.
Florida School Districts - Funding - Case Study

Key Metric:

Ridership Count:
↑10% Average Increase in Our Clients

Martin County School District

Martin County School District

1 %
Increased Ridership Count
Pembroke Pines Charter School

City of Pembroke Pines Charter Schools

1 %
Increased Ridership Count
Lake Wales Charter Schools

Lake Wales Charter School

1 %
Increased Ridership Count
ReaXium & Florida

Understanding Florida’s school districts' needs

Due to the course of our work serving schools and organizations across the state, we have identified two major pains and challenges to school transportation management that can now be solved through technology:

  • Generate accurate FTE reports during approved transportation survey periods.
  • Inefficiencies due to manual processes, paperwork, and lack of automatization.

Both of these issues have led to most of Florida’s school districts using inaccurate bus ridership & attendance data to decide their budgets. Florida Statutes (F.S.), states that the total amount of funding each school district receives will depend on the reported student ridership data during approved transportation survey periods. For this particular reason, precise data means fair funding. Additionally, Florida’s primary source of funding for the capital needs of charter schools is the Public Education Capital Outlay Fund where over the last 20 years, the total allocation has decreased by 48%. As such,  transportation departments are willing to invest in technology that will provide them with a better budget allocation.

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, ridership solutions 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.

Maria from ReaXium and a Pembroke Pines school admin looking at the student ridership solution

Student Ridership Solution increases ridership count leading to fair funding

When we launched our solution in Martin County School District, Pembroke Pines Charter Schools and Lake Wales Charter Schools, they needed – and had a focus on – a way to monitor their students and school buses in real-time to provide a greater service and safety. And for that, these transportation departments needed:

  • a GPS tracking system to provide the live location of school buses.
  • the visibility into every time a student boards or exits a bus, the student/bus information, pickup/dropoff location, and time when the event occurred.

Specifically, they needed an integrated system to get the full picture of daily student ridership through a real-time dashboard. It wasn’t until during their first survey weeks that they realized that the automation and accuracy of the technology not only gave them better visibility, efficiencies and safety in their operations, but also provided more funding as our system was always counting more students compared to the manual count they were doing.

About ReaXium School Bus

The transportation directors found that integrating ReaXium School Bus would make fleet operations more efficient and safe. The solution retrofits a school bus with the ReaXium Device and serves as a dual GPS tracking system, route assistant, and student ridership counter with RFID capabilities. The device captures, constantly updates, and securely transmits data on the bus status and its riders. When the bus arrives at a stop or at school; students would “check in” or “check out” at the device with their RFID-enabled school IDs to ensure they have safely arrived. The district is provided with a real-time dashboard that allows them to accurately monitor daily ridership and have complete control over its operations.

The Importance of Student ID Cards

Families and schools need to make sure their children take their badges every day. Each student is issued a badge with RFID technology. It is important because with their badge they will be able to check-in and out when boarding and leaving the bus quickly. Badge scanning streamlines ridership data collection in order to generate the relevant information and insights for reporting.

Providing Accurate Data During Survey Weeks

Survey weeks present the biggest challenges to departments and test the efficiency of their operations. School bus drivers must submit their reports of the total number of students transported on their routes and stops to the transportation department. In MCSD, PPCS & LWCS this process was carried out in a very rudimentary manner with students being counted by hand and everything was written down on a piece of paper. This presents a problem because manual work is very prone to human error, 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.

In an interview with Martin County’s 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.
Alfreda Newton
Martin County’s school bus driver
Angela Newton, Martin County School Bus Driver

Not only the process was cumbersome and hard to follow, but the inconsistency of students riding during those weeks also presented an issue to the counting:

“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 as needed. 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 ensure that our reports are accurate when students are using the bus during audit week. This is a great advantage 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.
Alfreda Newton
Martin County’s school bus driver

For administrators, there’s no need to compile and consolidate piles of manual paperwork to be deciphered. Ridership reports are easily exportable with all required formats and information for easy submission inter-department or to the state.

Ridership Results: Before and After

Martin County School District

Martin County School District

Feedback is positive to them counting 1.5% more riders with greater accuracy:

  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they counted 6101 riders manually. After ReaXium, 6192 riders were counted.
  • They reduced the number of ineligible students being transported – due to better access to information
    • Students’ ridership is flagged irregular to planned routing for wrong route, wrong stop, etc.
  • The solution alleviated pains for both drivers & administrators
Pembroke Pines Charter School

City of Pembroke Pines Charter Schools

Feedback is overwhelmingly positive to them counting 21% more riders with greater accuracy:

  • Before the solution, they counted 1288 riders manually. After implementation, 1582 riders were counted.
  • In analyzing differences, the 1288 counted manually includes students that are not enrolled anymore and double counting students across different bus sheets.
  • Avoiding these errors would excuse the team from having to revise and justify their original reports if audited.
Lake Wales Charter Schools

Lake Wales Charter School

Feedback is overwhelmingly positive to them counting 8% more riders with greater accuracy:

  • Before the solution, they counted 1600 riders manually. After implementation, 1731 riders were counted.
  • The overtime and effort was reduced to almost zero.
  • Drivers are delighted to have such tools to reduce mistakes during FTE week.

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