UniteGPS – Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-CA) recently introduced the SB 878 Road to Success bill to ensure free public transportation for K-12 students from low-income families and communities of color. Called “Road to Success,” districts and county offices can expect more resources to either strengthen their bus fleet operations, or partner with public transit agencies if the bill passes.
“Getting to and from school should never be a barrier to student success,” said Sen. Skinner in a press release. “The research is clear: students with school-provided transportation miss far fewer days and are more likely to graduate. SB 878, Road to Success, will ensure that not having a ride is never again the reason for a child to miss school.”
According to Sen. Skinner, there are “wide-ranging and long-term negative impacts on children” unable to attend school without free transportation, especially in CA communities like West Contra Costa and San Jose.
Data released by the Department of Education in November 2020 showed that Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, and Latino students were more likely to have unexcused absences due to the lack of transportation options.
In response to these socioeconomic disparities, the SB 878 bill intends to improve the state’s protocol for home-to-school transportation by paying the bus fare for students to use city transit to attend class. Without reliable daily transportation between home and school, thousands of students throughout the state have been unable to attend in-person learning, falling behind academically in the process.
SB 878 Road to Success
Both districts or county offices will need to present a proposal in order to receive these funds that won’t begin to be dispersed until at least the 2023-2024 academic year. Additionally, the funding will function as a reimbursement to cover the service costs.
As far as provisions go, the SB 878 Road to Success bill stipulates that students between kindergarten and 6th grade must walk to school if they live within a half-mile, while students between 7th and 12th grade have a one-mile walking distance.
The final cost from the state depends on whether school districts choose to build their own bus system or partner with a local transit agency to stabilize operations.
Whether or not the SB 878 bill passes, school districts, as well as transit agencies, still need to find more drivers to cover routes for over 6 million students in CA. The reality of the situation is that increasing Omicron rates and upcoming revisions to CDL training have exacerbated the issue.