SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bill is progressing in the Illinois General Assembly that would change school transportation eligibility requirements for students by increasing the walking distance from one and a half miles to 2 miles.
Under House Bill (HB) 5967, school boards would be required to provide free transportation for students who live 2 miles or more from their assigned school.
The 2-mile distance would be measured from the exit of the property where the student lives to the point where he or she unloads at school, and it would be measured by the shortest distance normally traveled on roads or streets.
The transportation requirements would also change for students who attend a charter school or any school other than a public school. Those students who live at least 2 miles from the school they attend and who live on or along a highway that’s part of a public school district’s route could receive transportation service that extends from some point on the route that is nearest to their home to and from their school.
Also under the bill, a school board could provide free transportation to any student who lives within 2 miles (up from one and a half miles) of his or her home school if walking conditions are hazardous. School bus transportation would not be made available if “adequate” public transportation is available.
The changes proposed in HB 5967 are concerning to Patrick Johnson, president of the Illinois School Transportation Association.
In a letter to the Illinois State Journal-Register, he writes that the legislation would “radically alter the formula that guarantees yellow bus service for all students living at least [one and a half] miles from school” and “will put thousands of school children at risk, increase traffic congestion and harm the environment.”
Johnson also noted that many school districts are actually considering reducing the one and a half mile eligibility requirement due to parent concerns about safety issues and the effect of added traffic congestion on the environment.
Last week, the bill was referred to assignments in the Senate. If the bill is ultimately approved, it would take effect July 1.