LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Just three days after the state Legislature passed it, a bill that restores funding to school transportation programs statewide received the governor’s approval.
On Friday Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 81, which replaces the $248 million midyear cut to the Home-to-School Transportation program Brown made with a smaller, more equitable reduction across all school districts in California.
SB 81 moved quickly through the Legislature and made it to the governor’s desk in just three days. The bill goes into immediate effect.
“This is a victory for every child in the state,” said state Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa). “Every child should have equal access to a quality education. SB 81 ensures kids will get to school so they can learn, get an education and be on track to be successful and contributing members of our society.”
Assemblyman Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) praised Gov. Brown for taking quick action on the bill and understanding its importance to school children in rural areas.
“I am thrilled that the Legislature and governor were able to come together to restore the funding that gets California’s students to school,” Chesbro said. “Home-to-School Transportation is an essential service in my district. This bill was signed just in time to save the jobs of many school bus drivers and ensure that there is no interruption in getting kids to school.”
Lake County Superintendent of Schools Wally Holbrook told Lake County News on Friday that the governor’s midyear cuts to Home-to-School Transportation and special education transportation would have amounted to just over $1 million for Lake County's school districts.
However, SB 81 has reduced those cuts by $527,000, bringing the total reduction for the county to approximately $482,147, Holbrook said.
Konocti Unified and Kelseyville Unified, with the county’s largest transportation needs, had $263,976 and $147,140 in funding restored to them, respectively, according to Holbrook.
Holbrook said his office contacted Chesbro and Evans, with both being “really responsive” to concerns about the funding loss and writing to the governor.
Chesbro and Evans both decried the cuts, saying they were unfairly hitting the rural areas they serve.
Holbrook said the governor’s midyear cuts were not across the board, but targeted the last half of the 2011-12 fiscal year’s transportation funding, and amounted to a 50-percent cut for schools with transportation programs based on a formula developed a long time ago.
The result was that some districts were hit particularly hard. Districts with no transportation had no cuts, but schools with transportation needs were harder hit, with some cuts amounting to several hundred dollars per student, he said.
The cuts totaled more than $100 per student for the Kelseyville and Konocti districts, according to Holbrook.
With SB 81 becoming law, the cuts total about $42 per student across the board, whether their schools offer transportation or not, Holbrook said.
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