HARTFORD, Conn. — A coalition of education, municipal and legislative officials is calling for the restoration of funding for Connecticut's school transportation grant.
The budget approved by the state Senate's appropriations committee would eliminate funding for public and non-public school transportation by some $28 million per year. Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposed budget also includes cuts to school transportation funding.
For example, the town of Bethel would see a loss of $83,391 in the proposed appropriations budget, or $68,089 in the governor’s proposed budget.
“School transportation funding should not be negotiable,” said state Sen. Toni Boucher, who voted against the appropriations budget. “These districts will have to make up the money in core areas such as educational programs and services.”
Boucher said that in eliminating the transportation subsidy, both the governor’s proposal and the appropriations committee proposal would replace the state allocation with a competitive grant program. The $5 million in competitive funding is reportedly meant to incentivize districts to regionalize transportation services.
"The coalition and I agree that the cost benefits suggested in this proposal would not materialize," Boucher said. "Impracticalities would arise. Schools would need to merge so that bus runs could be reduced. ... This idea of regionalizing buses that bring children to school around a wide-ranging area would be a logistical nightmare."
Organizations involved in the coalition include the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Connecticut Council of Small Towns.
"Cutting funding for an essential service like school transportation will have a significant and direct impact on cities and small towns across the state," Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who is first vice president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said in a news conference, the Connecticut Post reports. "We cannot afford to shift another cost to the taxpayers of Bridgeport. I call upon the leadership in Hartford to ensure that these funds are restored."
Any budget proposal would ultimately have to be approved by the state's General Assembly. The legislative session is scheduled to end on June 5.