Friday, February 24, 2012

The Fight to Save Transportation Funding Continues

Last week the Department of Finance submitted a revised budget proposal that restored the funding for the Home-to-School Transportation program for the 2012-13 fiscal year. This represents positive movement by the Governor to address the concerns voiced by CSEA and the Education Coalition regarding the elimination of funding for school transportation.

As we reported, the Governor signed Senate Bill 81 to restore the mid-year funding cuts for the Home-to-School Transportation program. Instead it applies a reduction of $248 million evenly among all school districts, county offices of education and charter schools.

While the reduction for all districts increased slightly, on average approximately $42 per ADA, spreading the total reduction among all local education agencies is a more equitable method of distributing the reduction than disproportionately impacting those districts that so desperately rely on school buses to transport students to and from school.

CSEA understood that SB 81 does not benefit every district. Unfortunately, in a budget cutting environment we are faced with imperfect choices.

The first option was to accept total elimination of school bus transportation funding, resulting in huge cuts to districts that provide school bus services, complete elimination of school bus services in some districts and a disproportionate cut to those workers who provide and those students who rely upon school bus services.

The second option was a much smaller across the board cut to every school district in the state. Those districts not providing school transportation would absorb a cut, but the cuts would be apportioned equally to every school district. CSEA chose to support this option.

Neither option is good, as both result in cuts. However, from a public policy standpoint CSEA’s position is that an across the board cut that is applied to every school district in the state is more fair than a cut that applies only to school bus services. An across the board cut can be spread among administration, teachers, classified, supplies, or other cost centers. A cut targeting only school transportation unfairly hits only school transportation and primarily classified jobs.

It is important to note, that while the amount of cuts increased. It is still far less than the $180 or more per ADA revenue limit cut that most districts had planned for in anticipation of the trigger being pulled. CSEA chose to support the option that benefited the greatest number of classified employees, protect student transportation services and provided the opportunity to minimize the negative impact of cuts.

Some individual districts may complain about having to take a small additional cut. No matter which position CSEA took, or which option was chosen, there would be winners and losers. This is why CSEA is pushing for increased revenues.