Contact: Robin Swanson of The Education Coalition - (916) 204-6890
As the Legislature’s budget conference committee considers cutting schools an additional $6 billion on top of the $11.6 billion in cuts already enacted, school bus routes are one of the many resources on the chopping block, with potentially tragic consequences.
The fewer options there are for children to get to school, the more likely it is that students without transportation will drop out, while those who do try to find an alternative will often resort to dangerous options, including driving with teenage friends or walking in dangerous neighborhoods or along treacherous routes.
According to the national Transportation Research Board: “Children are at far more risk traveling to and from school in private passenger vehicles – especially if a teenage driver is involved – than school buses.”
The Los Angeles Times also detailed some tragic consequences of school-to-home travel (7/28/08, “California school districts ending or reducing bus service for students,” by Seema Mehta). Mehta reports that according to a study by the National Research Council, “about 800 children are killed and 152,000 are injured annually during school travel hours.” Only 2% of the deaths and 4% of the injuries involve school buses, according to the Research Council study, while the rest occur when children are walking or bicycling to school, or in family cars, particularly if a teen is driving.
The National Safety Council reports that school buses are 172 times safer than the family automobile and 8 times safer than scheduled airlines.
Teachers, parents and administrators have also expressed concern that many students who don’t have any other options will simply drop out of school altogether, and State Superintendent Jack O’Connell has confirmed that realigning bus routes can contribute to lower attendance and a higher dropout rate.
Last year, California schools continued the steady academic progress that has been achieved since the inception of the state’s accountability system 10 years ago. The percentage of schools at or above the API target of 800 was up from 2007 at all school levels – up 3.3 percentage points for elementary schools, up 5.7 percentage points for middle schools, and up 2.8 percentage points for high schools.
The fact remains that there is no way that California’s schools can continue to maintain the progress in student achievement made in recent years, including improved Academic Performance Index (API) scores, in the midst of devastating statewide cuts, particularly if students are denied transportation options to get to school in the first place.
California already ranks dead-last in the nation in per-pupil spending, and there’s simply nowhere left to cut. The devastation of these cuts is not only lost jobs right now, but deep, lasting damage to the ability of our children and the state to compete and succeed in the future.
The Education Coalition represents more than 2.5 million teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, school employees and other education advocates in California. For more information, please visit our website at: www.protectourstudents.org.