Jul 30, 2014
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Busing Funds Now Poised for Total Elimination

Under Gov. Jerry Brown's newest budget proposal, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified could lose about $800,000 in state funding for transportation.

Busing Funds Now Poised for Total Elimination

Though he proposes giving more money to K-12 schools in the next fiscal year—pending voter approval of tax hikes—if he has his way, Gov. Jerry Brown will slash all state funding to home-to-school and special-education transportation.

The proposal comes just weeks after Brown announced that the , eliminating $248 million from home-to-school busing funds.

On Thursday, , allotting $4.9 billion more for K-12 schools than for the current year. But if the hikes on sales and income taxes he's asking voters to approve this fall don't pass, the budget includes an automatic trigger cut of $4.8 billion.

In the budget proposal, he's included no money for K-12 transportation. The elimination would translate to an $800,000 hit to the Santa-Malibu Unified School District, which receives state funds in two categories to bus special education  and mainstream students.

"That’s huge," said Jan Maez, the district's chief financial officer.

Outside of special education services, the district buses an average of 214 students daily—all in Malibu—at an annual cost of about $650,000. The state funds about $400,000.

"In Malibu, they don’t have the sidewalks and type of traffic control that they have in city of Santa Monica; transportation continues to be provided because we’re concerned about children's safety," she said.

But unlike traditional home-to-school transportation, busing special-education students is mandated federally, so the district would have to find some way to pay for it.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified currently spends $979,000 to transport its special-education students, with the state funding about $400,000 of that. Taking on the total cost would add to the $11 million it already spends on special-education services.

Though the state's budget crisis hasn't plagued Santa Monica-Malibu Unified as severely as it has other school districts across California, its financial state is still precarious. Officials recently estimated that SMMUSD is about $17 million from where it should be because of the state budget woes.

"It would be certainly something that we’d have to look at really hard—whether those kinds of services can continue," Maez said of transportation.

"What makes it so hard for schools, really hard for schools, is to plan and do the business at hand—we can’t … we’re always working in the shoe-may-drop mode," she said. "We can’t make the real instructional changes that we’re here for."

Maez is skeptical that the state would actually ax funding completely—though it wouldn't be unprecedented.

In the past three years, the state has stripped K-12 schools of $18 billion.

"There’s simply no other way to describe it: This is an emergency. Every day, teachers, school employees and principals are performing miracles," Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said Friday in a statement.

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