The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office on Tuesday proposed three options to make the school busing funding formula more equitable and rational than the program under the new education funding system effective last July.
To adopt any of the report’s three options would be a “notable improvement,” in funding for home-to-school transportation, said Kenneth Kapphahn, a fiscal and policy analyst for the LAO and author of the report, which was requested by the legislature after it acknowledged that the current $491 million transportation program under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula needed reform.
He added that a new option would “help the Legislature further its goal of building a school funding system that is simple, transparent and rational.”
Currently, all school districts annually receive the same amount of transportation funding they received in 2012-2013, which is actually based on the transportation funding they received in the early 1980s.
“We have indicated that this is a very irrational and outdated approach, and suggest the Legislature get started on an alternative this year,” Kapphahn told STN.
The three options are:
- Phase out funding for the current program during the next several years and allow school districts to decide how much to spend on busing from money received under the Local Control Funding Formula. This mechanism overhauled the previous education funding system that hadn’t been changed since the 1980s.
- Create a threshold for reimbursement and pay most of the costs above that level, easing the burden of districts facing disproportionate busing expenses
- Create a new formula that would reimburse all districts for a portion of their transportation costs.
Kapphahn noted that the state Assembly Budget Committee is scheduled to review the issue on March 4, with the Senate Budget Committee set to hear about this on March 20. He added that currently there is no specific timeline for adopting a new funding approach.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature eliminated nearly all “categorical” programs and folded the funding for them into the Local Control Funding Formula, which ties school funding to student demographics by providing extra money for disadvantaged students. It increases base grants for grades K-3 and 9-12, while schools with students who are low-income, English learners or foster youth would receive additional grants.
Under the new formula, Brown and the legislature left state subsidies for transportation alone, but they didn’t address the inequities of the formula, so the legislature asked the LAO to recommend a solution.
Kapphahn said when legislatures conclude their hearings, they may choose to pursue one of the options presented in the report or postpone a decision pending more information.
“For all three options, there would be some additional work required to implement the option and work through various transition issues,” he noted, adding that full implementation of an alternative could take a few years.