MIRANDA, Calif. — Faced with a reduction of more than $710,000 from the state for pupil transportation services due to the Legislature’s recent cut to funding for home-to-school transportation across California, Southern Humboldt Unified School District (SHUSD) has eliminated its transportation department.
As SBF reported last month, funding for free school bus service in California was slashed by $248 million as part of mid-year budget cuts.
SHUSD has provided transportation for approximately 600 regular- and special-education students. These services reportedly cost the district $1,386,605 per year, and the state has reimbursed the district $1,159,476, or approximately 84 percent of the cost.
With the trigger cut to funding for home-to-school transportation, the state’s reimbursement to SHUSD would be cut by $710,466, which would increase the district’s cost per student to $910.85.
The decision to eliminate the district’s transportation department — which involved laying off 11 bus drivers, a mechanic, a shop foreman, and the director of transportation and maintenance — was made during a board of trustees meeting on Jan. 3.
SHUSD Superintendent Jim Stewart confirmed in an interview with SBF last week that the resolution to eliminate these positions was adopted.
“They [the employees] received 45-day layoff notices,” Stewart said. “Our hope is that within the next 45 days, the Legislature will turn around the decision to reduce funding.”
In an effort to help influence legislators’ decision, the SHUSD board of trustees also adopted a resolution during the Jan. 3 meeting in favor of restoring funding for home-to-school transportation in the state.
Officials said in the resolution that the funding cut would fall disproportionately on students from low-income families in rural areas of California, and they urged Gov. Jerry Brown and members of the state Legislature to “reverse the state budget action and reverse a disproportionate cut to the students of Southern Humboldt Unified School District.”
“We hope to meet with our legislative representatives on Jan. 17 in Sacramento,” Stewart added. “We’re going to try and establish some appointments to discuss the impact of the funding cuts on our district, but so far, our representatives have declined to schedule an appointment.”
In the meantime, Stewart said that he and other district officials are looking at alternative means to get students to and from school.
“We’re currently considering all avenues to enable our students to continue to be transported to school — having parents carpool, continuing to spend our reserve funds and perhaps beginning to charge a fee to those who are able to pay,” he said. “What the fee would be has not yet been determined. We have a pretty high population of students that are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, so we’re weighing the options. We’re not sure how much we could charge to make it worth our while.”
Stewart has also reached out to Assembly member Warren Furutani in support of legislation that Furutani recently introduced that calls for the restoration of $248 million for home-to-school transportation in the state.
Assembly Bill 1448 would make an appropriation of the $248 million from the state's general fund to the California Department of Education for transfer to Section A of the state school fund to reinstate the money for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
If approved, the act would take effect immediately.