SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Funding for home-to-school transportation in the state will be reduced by $248 million as part of mid-year budget cuts announced on Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
As SBF reported last week, funding for school transportation had already been reduced by 20 percent, and this new cut will slash funding by an additional 50 percent.
The cut to school transportation funding is part of nearly $1 billion in mid-year cuts to various statewide programs that are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2012. The reductions were set to kick in if revenue did not reach the optimistic level that Brown and state lawmakers had assumed, The Los Angeles Times reports.
According to a statement from Ana Matosantos, director of the California Department of Finance, the updated revenue estimate for 2011-12 is $86,247,700,000, which is $2,204,800,000 lower than the revenue specified in Section 3.94 of the state’s Budget Act.
“Pursuant to Section 3.94 and other sections of law, the Legislature established certain specific spending reductions or revenues that shall occur,” Matosantos added.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued a statement in response to news of the cuts.
“It’s a sad day for California,” Torlakson said. “Taking hundreds of millions of dollars from our schools — on top of the $18 billion in cuts they have already suffered — will only make life harder for students in California’s chronically underfunded schools. Mothballing school bus fleets across the state will mean many rural, disabled and low-income students literally will have no safe way to get to school. Children will lose child care, students will lose the opportunity for a college education and our overcrowded classrooms will continue to be jammed with 35 to 40 students.
Mike Rea, government relations chairperson for the California Association of School Transportation Officials, told SBF on Wednesday that the association will continue to work on a “legislative fix” that would move the transportation cut to an across-the-board revenue limit cut for school districts. It would amount to a $42-per-student cut.
For its part, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is planning to file a lawsuit this week against the state to halt the $38 million transportation services funding reduction it will incur as a result of the statewide cut.
“Unlike other districts, LAUSD cannot simply terminate its transportation services due to the impending decimation of its transportation budget," district Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement. "This is because the vast majority of those services are Constitutional mandated and required by a 1981 court order from Crawford v. Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles.”
The Crawford court order mandated LAUSD to implement desegregation programs, including a magnet school program and a permits with transportation program. The Crawford order remains effective today and requires transportation services be provided to approximately 35,000 students.
The district also provides transportation services to another 13,000 students with special needs under both federal and state law requirements.
“Due to the combined mandates, the trigger cuts force the district to choose between two illegal and unconstitutional outcomes,” Deasy added. “It must either terminate its transportation services in direct violation the Crawford court order (and federal and state law), or divert precious classroom dollars from its general fund to pay for the required transportation services.”
He went on to say that choosing to divert funds that are needed in the classrooms, which the Crawford order requires, violates the California Constitution because further budget cuts would adversely impact the educational benefits offered to students. Therefore, LAUSD's students would receive a disproportionately lower share of funding and educational opportunities as compared to students in school districts without those mandatory costs, according to the district.