Grant Gives North and Harding Students More Access to DART

Just in time for the first day of school, a new pilot program will test the impact of providing free transportation for all students at North High School and Harding Middle School. Beginning August 24, Principal Foundation is providing funding for all Harding and North students to ride DART free to and from school. As a result, students who would not normally qualify for free school transportation will be able to ride DART free any time during the 2022-23 school year.

“This is a wonderful gift for North High students,” said principal Ben Graeber. “We are incredibly grateful to the Principal Foundation for this grant which will impact hundreds of students each week, especially during the winter months.”

Harding principal Christopher Schmit agreed adding, “Expanding the DART program for each Harding student will provide even more equitable opportunities for students to attend school and take part in extracurricular activities.”

The pilot builds on the existing DART and DMPS partnership by removing the transportation barrier for students who live too close to their school to qualify for free transportation. High school students who live within three miles of their school and middle schoolers who live within two miles of their school do not normally receive free transportation to and from school. This pilot will assess how taking away the transportation barrier for these students impacts attendance and student achievement throughout the school year.

“We work to shape a world where financial security is accessible to all people. So often there are barriers in place preventing people from seizing opportunity,” said Jo Christine Miles, director, Principal Foundation and community relations. “A lack of transportation is a major roadblock. We hope that this support will help pave the way for better student engagement, increased student persistence through graduation, and improved academic performance – all of which can lead to brighter and more secure futures for these students.”

“This innovative partnership enables us to do what public transit does best – break down barriers to access and opportunity,” said Erin Hockman, Chief External Affairs Officer for DART. “The principals of these schools are thrilled to have this support and have shared this will save them considerable time working to identify transportation solutions for students.”

DMPS contracts with DART to provide all students with the ability to ride free after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and any time on days when school is not in session. DART also provides school transportation for many middle and high school students who qualify for free transportation. Students who do not qualify for free school transportation can pay half fare to ride DART to and from school.

The pilot program for Harding and North schools will continue throughout the 2022-23 school year. More information is available by visiting

The student transportation pilot is one of three DART projects to be funded through Principal Foundation grants. The other two will be announced in the coming months and also focus on improving financial wellbeing through removing transportation barriers.

About DART
Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) is Iowa’s largest, and only, regional transit agency, providing service in and around Polk County. DART operates a family of transportation services, providing nearly 4.5 million annual rides that connect thousands of people every day to jobs, school, healthcare and other essential destinations. Twelve member governments make up DART’s service area, where the agency carries out its mission to enrich lives, connect communities and expand opportunities for central Iowans. For more information about DART services, schedules, route changes, or directions to the nearest DART stop, visit the website at, download the free MyDART app or call 515-283-8100.

About DMPS
For more than 100 years, Des Moines Public Schools has provided an outstanding education to the students of our community. Today, DMPS is a leader and innovator in public education, offering families some of the best educational choices in Iowa as we become the nation’s model for urban education. DMPS is Iowa’s largest provider of K-12 education, serving more than 31,000 students, and one of the metro’s largest employers with 5,000 teachers, staff, and administrators serving in 70 buildings in Des Moines.

About Principal Foundation
Principal Financial Group Foundation, Inc. (“Principal Foundation”) is a duly recognized 501(c)(3) entity focused on providing philanthropic support to programs that build financial security in the communities where Principal Financial Group, Inc. (“Principal”) operates. While Principal Foundation receives funding from Principal, Principal Foundation is a distinct, independent, charitable entity. Principal Foundation does not practice any form of investment advisory services and is not authorized to do so.