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School Bus Safety: Importance of School Transportation Funding

Category:gps fleet tracker

smarketingOctober 13, 2023

National School Bus Safety Week is just around the corner. So, it is the perfect time to discuss safety initiatives for our children.

What is the National School Bus Safety Week? It is an annual awareness event that sheds light on the importance of ensuring student transportation safety across the country.

It is especially important for school transportation administrators in California. Why so? This state has had a long history of challenges associated with school transportation. California happens to be the least funded state for school logistics in the USA, based on per capita student enrollment. The ridership value is just 9%. While students are 70 times more likely to reach school safely by school bus than by car, there were over 1,200 fatalities across the nation that resulted from accidents between 2009 and 2018.

New funding, however, can help address these accessibility and safety challenges in California. The Governor of the state passed a benchmark budget of $308 billion in June last year. Among all the civic requirements these funds catered to, $170 billion was put aside to address issues, which pestered the California public school system, including declining enrollment, teacher shortage, achievement gaps, and, of course, school transportation.

If you are part of the California school transportation administrative branch, you should familiarize yourself with two programs: the “Home to School Transportation Program" and the “Green School Bus Grant." Both are created by the state budget and funded by Proposition 98 to eliminate safety challenges and establish school transportation accessibility.

Home to School Transportation

Proposition 98, passed in 1998 guaranteed a minimum level of funding for the K-12 public schools and community colleges in California. Since the idea came into existence, the funding levels of Proposition 98 have increased steadily from an estimated $96.1 billion in 2020 to $110.2 billion in 2021 and $110.4 billion in 2022.

The final budget of the state was a historic $637 million of ongoing Proposition 98 general fund money to the new Home to School Transportation program. According to School Transportation News, It was a local control funding formula add-on, which allowed local education agencies, or LEAs, to receive 60% reimbursement of their transportation expenses, or their current add-on, plus ongoing cost of living adjustments (COLA). Reimbursable transportation costs may include new school buses, fuel costs, new technology deployed in school buses, and other school transportation costs.

LEAs need to come up with an all-inclusive plan to apply for the reimbursement. This plan must describe how LEAs will provide transportation services to students, especially low-income students and those in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade. Here are a few suggestions to develop a comprehensive plan that will qualify for Home to School Transportation reimbursement.

  • The plan should include a description of how the LEA's transportation services would benefit students with low income or disabilities.
  • The plan must also come with a description of how the LEA's transportation services would benefit English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, or fostered students at no cost.
  • Apart from those within the LEA, you must create the plan by collaborating with stakeholders, such as staffs, school administrators, teachers, local air pollution districts, local transit authorities, parents, etc.
  • Once the plan is ready, it has to be presented and adopted by the governing board of the LEA and made available for discussion among the public.

About Green School Bus Grant

Almost 16,000 school buses ply on the streets of California, and around two-thirds of the buses run on diesel. These vehicles are costly from financial and environmental perspectives. School districts spend almost $1.8 billion on transporting students from their homes to school, with fuel expenses accounting for 10-20% of the budget. Furthermore, diesel emissions are risky for the state's carbon footprint and human health.

The state budget requisitioned $1.5 billion in one-time Proposition 98 funds to the California Air Resources Board and California Energy Commission to lay the foundation of a zero-emission school bus program called Green School Bus Grant. It will replace existing school buses powered by diesel with electric school buses. Earliest estimates predict that this funding will let school districts replace around 3,000 school buses.

Based on the data posted on the EPA 2023 Clean School Bus Grant Program, an applicant will be prioritized if they fulfill the following requirements.

  • The applicant hosts a high population of English learners and low-income students.
  • The applicant comes up with a proposal to replace the oldest school buses.
  • The applicant proposes to purchase electrical school buses with bidirectional charging.
  • The applicant has less than or equal to 2,500 students.
  • The applicant operates in rural areas.

The Legislative Analyst's Office claims that the grants will possibly start at $500,000 for replacing one bus, with electric buses costing around $400,000. Recipients have to get rid of old buses within one year of receiving new vehicles. Additionally, recipients must use at least 90% of their grant for buying the electric bus and related infrastructure, such as charging stations, as per the Department of Transportation. The other 10% can be spent on any other cost associated with school transportation, including school buses, training, hiring, administrative costs, innovative safety technology, and more. The California Energy Commission and California Air Resources Board are presently developing application procedures.

How to improve school transportation

School bus safety is a profoundly risky aspect of student transportation. Over a 180-days in a school year, motorists end up causing over 17 million stop-arm violations. It means there are are just too many opportunities for a school bus collision or blind spot-related accident to occur.

The Southern California Association of Governments states that California is one of the few states where both funding and ridership are among the lowest in the country. Naturally, this new funding is going to be historic because it will make things possible for the authorities of California schools to reinvest in school transportation programs - increasing sustainability, accessibility, and safety for millions of students who need to travel to school from home every day.

Vyncs can be your partner in improving your school transportation program and improving school bus safety. Vyncs is a comprehensive platform that empowers schools to streamline student transportation systems, monitor vehicles, minimize accidents, and improve student safety though its exclusive range of GPS fleet trackers.

Visit Vyncs website to see what it can do to empower your school bus safety drive.

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