As part of California’s proposed budget for the 2022-2023 school year, one-time funds are providing a $1.5 billion grant program to help school districts purchase electric school buses and construct charging stations.
Grant awards would be at least $500,000 each, according to a budget summary, to “acquire an electric school bus, construct the bus charging station, and support other local school bus transportation needs.” A spokesperson for the California Department of Education told School Transportation News that a trailer bill with more detail on the program is expected the first week of February.
An email sent to the California Department of Finance seeking confirmation was not returned at this writing.
The money would be a part of $102 billion in Proposition 98 funding, a ballot measure approved by voters in 1988 to guarantee a minimum level of funding for public K-12 schools and community colleges. The funds are raised through income, sales, corporate and capital gains taxes along with local property tax revenues.
Priority would go to school districts that service high concentrations of low-income students, youth in foster care, and English learners. Most small and rural educational agencies would also be prioritized.
Additionally, the California Department of Education’s Office of School Transportation stands to receive $1.1 million to support the school bus driver training program. A workgroup consisting of representatives from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, California Highway Patrol, the state’s Board of Education aims to streamline the process of training and licensing new school bus driver applicants, both of which have been hit hard by COVID-19.
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Meanwhile, on Tuesday Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order designed to provide flexibility to school districts in hiring personnel during the Omicron variant surge. The executive order includes the suspension of the 180-day break in service requirement that retired classified workers such as school bus drivers or other transportation staff normally must adhere to before being rehired by a school district. The current 2021-2022 state budget also provides $2.9 billion, part of which could be used to recruiting more teachers and classified staff.