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Efforts to Fully Fund California Student Transportation Advance

As Senate legislation to mandate free transportation of all K-12 students was scheduled for a vote next month by the appropriations committee, a bill in the Assembly also advanced to reimburse school districts at 100 percent of their transportation costs.

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) lauded the Assembly Education Committee’s 7-0 passing Wednesday of AB 2933, calling it the “smart solution” to the state having the fewest number of students riding school buses nationwide on a per-capita basis. That is because funding for student transportation has remained relatively the same since reductions began in the early 1980s, despite the state having the highest public K-12 student enrollment — 6.5 million — nationwide. That is 1 million more students than the next largest state, Texas.

Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell introduced AB 2933 in February, a week after Sen. Nancy Skinner’s SB 878 was read for the first time. But the two bills differ significantly. While Skinner’s “Road to Success” would no longer authorize but require school districts to offer free school transportation — via school buses or otherwise — to all students, O’Donnell’s bill would provide 100-percent reimbursement and an annual cost-of-living adjustment to districts for home-to-school transportation service, but it would allow school districts to choose to receive the additional funding or rely solely on local revenues.

Meanwhile, SB 878 would prohibit school districts from earning revenues from bus passes.

If passed, AB 2933 would begin with the 2023-2024 school year. That was the original timeframe to implement SB 878, but it was amended on April 18 to begin with the 2027-2028 school year.

Both bills were unanimously approved for the so-called “Suspense File,” where programs with costs of more than $150,000 go while awaiting appropriation committee votes. The fates of the two bills are expected to take place later next month.

The legislation could be combined at some point, with changes, or end up being included in the state budget, which will be voted on in mid-June. K-12 Education is already the largest part of the proposed 2022-2023 budget at over $70.5 billion. Meanwhile, California is enjoying a $68 billion budget surplus, according to preliminary figures released this week by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). That figure, due to especially strong tax collections, is over double what Gov. Gavin Newsom projected in January.

However, the LAO on Tuesday also warned that its simulations point to a budget deficit as early as the 2025-2026 fiscal year.

Related: California School District Converts Half of Fleet to Electric Buses
Related: California School Bus Driver Recognized for Dedication to Job
Related: Proposed California Education Budget Includes 3-Year, $1.5B Electric School Bus Program

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