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Budget Cuts Put Brakes on Bus Service

Some 'literally will have no safe way to get to school,' says schools chief.

Budget Cuts Put Brakes on Bus Service

Thousands of California children will have to find their own way to school next year, with the loss of $248 million in transportation funds forcing an end to federally mandated bus service.

The impact to services will vary from school district to school district, although special needs, low-income and rural students are expected to be disproportionately affected. The loss is part of a larger package of cuts to K-12 education totalling $327 million.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced the "trigger cuts," so called because they went into effect automatically when the state fell $2.2 billion short of the $4 billion in revenues projected by the budget passed in June.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson held a news conference with education representatives to discuss how schools will be forced to cope with the latest round of budget cuts, which in recent years have already slashed $18 billion from school funding.

The result has been crowded classrooms, shortened school years, and a lack of needed textbooks and supplies, he said, adding that the school system is getting closer to its breaking point.

"Enough is enough," Torlakson said. "This is on the back of four years of chaos and cutting."

When the cuts take effect Jan. 1, California will become the first state to completely eliminate state funding for school bus transportation.

According to Dennis Meyers, the assistant executive director for the California School Board Association, the cuts will be meted out at levels that differ widely from district to district and will likely require school districts to scour their budgets to continue providing critical transportation services at the expense of classroom services.

"There's no way to make this win-win, no matter how that cut is handled locally," Meyers said.

Some students, Torlakson said, "literally will have no safe way to get to school," as they will be forced to navigate neighborhoods inhabited by sexual predators and criminals. Parents who use the school district-provided bus services frequently depend upon them, said Patty Scripter, the director of legislation for the California State PTA.

"Our children are not going to have the resources they need," she said. "Our kids need new revenues, not new cuts."

Torlakson and others said during this morning's news conference that Brown's latest announcement has left the state's education system at a crossroads.

"These are very deep cuts in terms of their total impact on the students of California," Torlakson said.

The K-12 system will face a second across-the-board cut of $79.6 million that takes effect Feb. 1.

Hundreds are expected to rally Thursday statewide in response to the trigger cuts, which will also impact health and human services as well as the state's higher education system.

In San Jose, dozens of seniors, caregivers, and others impacted by the cuts to social services plan to gather in front of the State Building on Paseo De San Antonio at 11 a.m. to express disapproval of the cuts, which will shave $100 million from in-home supportive services and $100 million from developmental disability services.

-- Patricia Decker, Bay City News Service

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