Lawmakers’ switch preserves school bus funding

The following has selected pieces from SACBEE.COM

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press=

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 – 10:22 am

Last Modified: Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 – 1:48 pm

Copyright 2012 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — “Parents and educators said they were relieved Thursday after state lawmakers changed their minds and voted against targeting school bus service in a midyear budget cut to education.

The move alters a $248 million school transportation spending cut lawmakers included in the state budget they passed last summer. The cut was to take effect automatically at the start of the year because tax revenue was running well behind projections, but many school districts objected.”

” ‘I’m so excited,’ Cinnamon Paula said after the vote. Paula, a parent of four, helped organize opposition to the cuts in the Southern Humboldt Unified School District, which covers 700 square miles in far Northern California.

“I think we would have lost a third of our school district,” said Paula, who lives in Redway, about 200 miles north of San Francisco. “They would have had to be home-schooled or left the area because they couldn’t have gotten to school.”

She created a Facebook page focused on the transportation cuts, helped organize a protest trip last month to Sacramento attended by more than 200 parents, children and other North Coast residents, and arranged for opponents to email and telephone the governor’s office every day.”

“The measure would take effect immediately if Brown signs it into law, but it would protect transportation funding only through the rest of the current school year.”

Governor Brown still plans to eliminate the funding, when July 1st starts the new fiscal year!

“Paula remains concerned about Brown’s proposal, and her feelings are shared even in a much different school system.”

Los Angeles Unified School District, which has the highest enrollment in the state, had voted to sue the state when the cut took effect last month. Overcrowding forces the district to bus certain students. The superintendent was planning to make cuts elsewhere, even in the classrooms, in order to maintain transportation services.

“Allan Clark, president of the California School Employees Association, said in a statement that the Legislature’s action was a relief to thousands of students and parents.”

SB81 did not clear with a unanimous vote.

“In the Assembly, some lawmakers representing suburban areas objected or abstained because their districts would lose more money under the funding shift.”

Supporters of the bill concede that some districts will lose some money, but in no way compares to the cost in devastation to students in other districts.

” ‘It all boils down to this: Children cannot learn if they cannot get to school,’ said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Bob Blumenfield, D-Sherman Oaks, who carried the bill.”

“Before lawmakers agreed to revise the spending cut, some school districts were scrambling to find ways to keep the buses running. Some planned to tap reserves so students would not be stranded.”

One example:

” In Southern Humboldt Unified, which covers 700 square miles in far Northern California, school officials were looking at consolidating bus routes and making elementary schools drop-off points for secondary students, Superintendent Jim Stewart said.”

Palo Verde Unified buses about 20 percent of its 3,500 students, some of them from 45 miles away near the Arizona border.

“Eliminating busing also would severely affect athletic programs because teams travel great distances to games and meets, said Palo Verde Superintendent Bob Bilek, who was interviewed before Thursday’s legislative vote.

“We cannot simply stop busing,” he said.”

Thank you to President Holt and Brady Bailo for staying on top of this and the needs of students throughout the state.

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