In light of impending state trigger cuts, California faces a potential $38 million slash to school bus transportation funding. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy recently sent a letter to parents warning them of the automatic cuts, urging them to contact state politicians and lawmakers to prevent the funding loss.
Deasy said the financial crisis comes as no surprise, but the effects on the school district could be devastating. Most of the transportation services provide for students with special education needs, and many students in the district attend magnet programs farther away from their homes.
A mid-year stoppage of transportation would come as a huge blow to families that have no other means to get their children to class, and Deasy said he isn't ready to cancel services.
"We could either have a ballooning deficit next year and not leave students on the side of the road this year, or do what the state is saying and ... end home-to-school transportation," he said. "I, for one, am not inclined to end home-to-school transportation, period. But we have no means at the moment, on how to cover such a gaping hole in our budget."
Pam Marton, principal of Community Magnet Charter School in Bel Air, Calif., said that in the past two years, the district has already reached into transportation funds set aside for integrated charter schools to fund instruction. Marton said her school is already taxed by this loss, and she's worried trigger cuts could bring the entire district's magnet school program to an end.
"At my school, 100 percent qualify for transportation, and with many magnets that is the case," Marton said.
Moreover, Marton said that this year, she's received the highest number of applicants ever, resulting in higher demand for school buses.
It seems uncertain how home-to-school transportation can continue without funding. Though Deasy has made a strong recommendation against nixing school bus services, the board has final say. Still, Deasy said no transportation will be terminated without at least a court fight. Meanwhile, the district continues to search for ways to save its transportation services.
"The cliff is here. All of the stimulus money is gone, all of the interim money is gone, the state is continuing to roll back in its funding, so at this point, we're going to have to look at local solutions if we don't want to watch this work unravel," Deasy said.