Don’t Miss the Bus on Getting Students to School: Support AB 2933
Legislation that would end California’s status as America’s worst state for home-to-school transportation passes out of the Assembly Education Committee in unanimous, bipartisan vote
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (April 27, 2022) – California is missing the bus on home-to-school transportation and failing its students in the process. Home-to-school transportation supports students and families through increased convenience, enhanced safety, higher attendance rates, reduced traffic and smaller carbon footprints. Yet, on a per capita basis, California has the fewest students riding school buses of any state in the nation. The Assembly Education Committee took a step toward changing this dismal reality and improving student outcomes when it passed Assembly Bill 2933 (O’Donnell, D-Long Beach) earlier today. The 7-0 vote was unanimous and bipartisan.
“Every moment our students spend in the classroom is critical to making up the learning lost during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CSBA President Dr. Susan Heredia. “I’m excited to see the Assembly Education Committee pass AB 2933 and I hope the Assembly Appropriations Committee follows suit because AB 2933 is the smart solution for getting California students to school every day, on time and ready to learn. This proposal would provide local educational agencies with the necessary resources and flexibility for home-to-school transportation without the risk of diverting funds from other essential student programs.”
Nationwide, about half of all school-age children ride a school bus, but in California, just one in 10 students takes a bus to school. Incredibly, California does not offer schools a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to pay for the rising costs of providing busing. Instead, state funding for each school district is locked in at 1980s levels. Constantly rising expenses for home-to-school transportation and no COLA mean that, to maintain a busing program, school districts and county offices of education would have to take money away from other important student services.
School districts and county offices of education would readily expand home-to-school transportation if the state paid for the real costs. There is ample incentive, as widespread school busing would increase attendance, making it easier to achieve academic goals for students. Instead, the state has refused to do what’s necessary to ensure that students have a safe, reliable means to reach school every day.
As a result, California is one of the few states that doesn’t provide busing for all students. Most of the state’s local educational agencies offer busing strictly for students in special education programs, as required under federal law. And even for these students, existing state funding is far less than what is required to pay for a busing program. California typically reimburses schools for less than 30 percent of home-to-school transportation costs, with many districts receiving less than 10 cents on the dollar.
AB 2933 would change the woeful status quo and establish the foundation for universal access to home-to-school transportation. AB 2933 would reimburse schools for 100 percent of approved transportation costs and recognize enrollment trends and population shifts while providing an ongoing COLA. It would also cover the addition of grades like transitional kindergarten, and programmatic changes that require new routes and more buses like later school start times and expanded before- and after-school programs.
Given the substantial barriers in place, it’s easy to see why most school districts don’t offer widespread home-to-school transportation services. But it doesn’t have to remain that way. More than half of California public school students reach school through some means other than personal automobiles — a group that is primed to use school buses if they become broadly available. AB 2933 would support schools and society by reversing 40 years of disinvestment that has made it harder for students to get to school. It’s time legislators stop missing the bus on home-to-school transportation and vote yes on AB 2933.
AB 2933 was approved by the committee in a unanimous, bipartisan 7-0 vote and now awaits a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
CSBA is a nonprofit association representing nearly 1,000 PreK-12 school districts