PORTLAND, Ore. – State budget cuts could force a program that gives free bus passes to Portland high school students to shut down, and some are worried that could mean a cut in school attendance as well.
TriMet started the free youth pass program back in 2008, but now the state no longer wants to fund it with the business energy tax credit.
David Engler with the Student Teacher Alliance told KATU News he thinks many students who can’t afford to pay the bus pass fee will give up on their education.
“Absences will increase, dropout rates will increase, and it really impacts their future in a big way,” Engler said.
“A lot of these kids have kids themselves, so that extra $20 a month or so is not something they can afford.”
The pass costs $27 per month. Approximately 13,000 students have access to the passes, and surveys show 80 percent of them actually use them to ride buses to school.
Portland Public Schools spends $800,000 per year to keep the program going. The district says it’s working with TriMet and the mayor to try and find a way to pay for the rest of the cost.
The program is at risk of ending Jan. 1.
“I think if we’re asking kids to invest in their own future and we’re taking away our investment in their education that sends a contradictory message,” said Engler.