Parents started a petition in response to a decision by the Menifee United School District located about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles to cut school bus transportation in the coming school year for all general education students.
After some months of discussion over the budget, the school board announced the decision on June 27, which will affect 1,300 students. Only special education students with transportation service included in their Individualized Education Program and homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act will still receive busing when school begins next month.
The district had contracted with nearby Hemet Unified School District to provide busing, but when the cost rose from $1.5 million to $2 million the Menifee school board reconsidered. It then decided that increasing costs, including that annual increase of $500,000 in school transportation and a $2 million increase in special education during the 2016-2017 school year, would bring them dangerously close to spending the 3 percent reserve they were required by the state of California to maintain.
The district said in a press release that “in order to keep the needed cuts to the budget away from the classroom, Home-to-School transportation was identified as a potential cost savings for the District of $700,000 annually.”
Parents were not pleased with this development and launched an online petition, “asking the Menifee Union School District to resume the Home-to-School transportation to the general education students for the academic year 2017-18 while exploring other options for the academic year 2018-19.”
Signers dubbed the district’s decision “unsafe,” “unreasonable,” “disgusting,” “ridiculous,” “irresponsible,” “an outrage,” and “unacceptable.”
Single parents or households in which both parents worked made it clear in the comments on the petition that they had no other way to get their kids to school if the bus did not come. Several stated their only options were to either give up their job or take their child out of school. The school district has since announced before- and after-school day care to assist parents.
Still, many are upset that something as basic as the means to get to school would be cut, with one parent stating simply, “I pay taxes and the children need this.” Additionally, a few parents were not averse to paying for transportation for their children, as one mentioned, “At least give parents the option to pay for this service!”
The safety concerns were very real to several commenters. “Menifee doesn't have sidewalks or cross walks in a lot of areas therefore it is very unsafe for children to walk to school.” Said one response. Some mentioned they feared for their young children or ones with asthma or ADHD who now have to walk to school.
Still others pointed out that the district should have cut costs in other areas, with several bringing up a new office building. One response read in part, “What district can plan for a multi million dollar district office, but can't care for the kids of the city. Priorities!”
A succinct response summed up the main objections to the district’s decision this way: “Residents pay enough taxes to cover transportation. General ed students have a right to an education as much as any other class. District leaders are getting paid way too much.”
At the time of this report, the petition had 1,292 signatures.