Rising Gas Prices a Problem for Schools, Congressional Report Finds

Published November 1, 2008

As students headed back to school this fall, schools nationwide faced a new challenge: high gas prices. A new Congressional report finds the price hikes are having an impact on public schools around the country.

In September, members of the House Education and Labor Committee released a report presenting the findings of a survey of nearly 1,000 different stakeholders in American education, including parents, students, teachers, and administrators. Ninety percent of respondents reported high gas prices are affecting schools in their community.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said the report highlighted another example of how gas prices are affecting the American economy.

“This report found that schools are in the same position as families, seniors, and small businesses—they are being squeezed by high energy costs,” Boehner said. “It’s forcing them to alter bus routes, cancel field trips, scale back sporting events and extracurricular activities, and raise lunch prices. And they want real action from this Congress to do something about it.”

Rising Costs

Half of the survey respondents reported schools in their community had been forced to cut back on field trips and after-school activities. A quarter of the survey’s respondents reported higher school lunch prices. A third said high costs had forced school systems to alter bus routes.

The new report presents more evidence energy prices have affected schools. In July, the National School Boards Association reported 86 school districts around the country had recently transitioned to four-day weeks. In many districts, schools have responded to gas-price hikes by altering bus routes, requiring students to walk farther to access their transportation.

Possible Solution

Allison Kasic, an analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, DC, says energy prices are a concern for families.

“It’s no surprise that parents are concerned about rising energy prices and its impacts on their families,” Kasic said. “It’s not just schools that are affected—the rising cost of energy has rippled through the economy. Families are seeing a growing part of their budgets going to necessities like food and gas, so I think it’s natural to be concerned about that.”

The solution, Kasic said, is to increase energy supplies.

“Demand for energy is up worldwide, but supply hasn’t increased. That has resulted in higher prices,” Kasic explained. “So if we want prices to go down, we must focus on expanding our energy supply. Congress needs to reverse its destructive policies that prevent the exploration and refining of fossil fuels, in order to increase our domestic energy supply.”

Dan Lips ([email protected]) is a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

For more information …

“Strapped: Students & Schools Pay the Price for Democrats’ Failed Energy Policies,” by John Boehner and Buck McKeon, September 17, 2008: http://republicans.edlabor.house.gov/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=743