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Sacramento – As the state rebounds from an era of cuts to education spending, a bipartisan coalition in the State Senate authorized new money for school transportation programs. The new money will help reimburse school districts for the money they spend on busing and transportation for students with special needs.
Last year, school districts statewide spent over $1.4 billion transporting students in the Home-to-School Transportation (HTST) program. On average, the state covered 35 percent of the cost, meaning districts only received $492 million in reimbursement. If signed in to law, the bill will bring state reimbursement rates up to 50 percent of cost.
"The state has had an uneven record of reimbursing school districts for the cost of transporting students with special needs, shortchanging too many districts for too long, said newly-elected State Senator Steven Glazer, who voted for the additional funding. “It is about time that the state return money where it belongs, to our local school districts."
The state HTST program was established in 1947, initially reimbursing school districts for a share of their transportation expenditures. Since the 1980’s there have been no adjustments for changes in costs, enrollment, or other factors, except for occasional cost of living adjustments. As a result of changing demographics and district needs over the past three decades, there are significant disparities in the amounts that school districts receive through the program as a percentage of their actual costs.
Locally, for example, the state only reimburses Antioch Unified 11 percent of its transportation costs. At Oakley Union Elementary District, the reimbursement level is a paltry 7.7 percent. Other districts below the 35 percent statewide average include, Liberty Union High School District (25 percent), Martinez Unified (28 percent) and San Ramon Valley Unified (16 percent).
The bill, Senate Bill 191, now goes to the Assembly for review. If it passes there, it will go to the Governor for his signature.
State Senator Steven M. Glazer represents Senate District 7, comprised of cities in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. http://sd07.senate.ca.gov/.