By offering their kids only MBTA passes to get to school, parents of students at Minuteman Regional High School believe Medford Public Schools are using their children as bargaining chips.
Medford Superintendent Roy Belson sees it differently.
"The Medford Public Schools are no longer going to be a doormat for Minuteman Vocational," Belson said Tuesday. "We're going to stand up."
The proposed Medford school budget includes cutting $50,000 in funding for a school bus to transport Medford students to the school, located in Lexington, and replacing the bus service with MBTA passes for students.
Belson appeared before the city council in a meeting at City Hall to review the School Department budget. Parents of Minuteman students also attended.
Getting to Minuteman from Medford via public transit would be no easy task. Many students would likely have to take a bus then a subway then another bus to make it from Medford to Lexington. Lisa Connearney, who's son plans on attending Minuteman next year, said she felt her child was being placed in the middle of a negotiation.
"Why are our children being used in the middle of this, and being placed in an unsafe situation?" she said to Belson.
Belson admitted that Medford -- and other communities, including Boston -- were in negotiations over funding for Minuteman and other regional high schools, but also pointed out Medford Public Schools are taking cuts in the proposed 2013 budget.
"I'm balancing two very delicate needs right now," Belson said.
Fee increases from Minuteman to Medford Public Schools have been consistently on the rise, he said. Medford's 2013 school budget has $1 million earmarked for out-of-district vocational tuition.
"They've been allowed to increase their fees at an astonishing rate," Belson said. "This is the year we put our foot down."
Belson said he believed the state would get involved and the issue could come to a resolution, other than having kids take the T, sometime this summer.
"When the Boston delegation speaks up on this, you're going to see Minuteman take a hit on the head," Belson said.
City Councilor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said that wasn't good enough.
"As a mom, if this was my child, I would need to know," Lungo-Koehn said.
City Councilor Michael Marks disagreed with Belson's tactics.
"I don't think we should hold these kids hostage here," Marks said.
The real problem lies in the shortcomings of Medford Vocational High School, Marks said. It doesn't offer enough programs in modern technology, leading students to leave for Minuteman, he said.
"We have to take a hard look at the Medford Vocational School," Marks said.
Angela Moore said her two kids would have to take two buses and a train in order to get to school each day.
"I felt I was being blamed for the state of Medford Vocational School," she said.
Councilor Paul Camuso told Belson that only offering public transportation passes to Minuteman students was unacceptable.
"I'll be damned if Medford kids are taking public transportation that far." Camuso said to Belson. "I expect you to know kids shouldn't be taking public transit 16 miles."
The Medford School Committee approved the school budget last week. It is currently in the hands of the Medford City Council.