By Jeremy Anderson and Angela Asch
Access to reliable home-to-school transportation for students improves attendance and cuts rates of chronic absenteeism, particularly for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Recent research from the University of Pennsylvania highlights evidence-based strategies to combat chronic absenteeism and found that safe and reliable school transportation ranks among the most impactful approaches. Thanks in part to CSBA advocacy, the 2022 California Budget Act included critical provisions for transportation in California school districts and county offices of education.
The legislation contains $637 million of ongoing funding for home-to-school transportation. This is the first increase to school transportation since 2013 and adds a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) beginning in 2023–24. Starting with the 2022–23 fiscal year, local educational agencies can be reimbursed up to 60 percent for eligible home-to-school transportation expenses for prior year eligible transportation spending and for their prior year Local Control Funding Formula transportation add-on. The act also included $1.5 billion in one-time funds over the next five years for LEAs to convert buses from gas to electric.
This ongoing transportation funding allows LEAs to expand and maintain access to transportation for some of their most vulnerable students. To receive this funding, LEAs will need to develop annual plans describing the transportation services they are providing to their students and how they will prioritize transportation services for students in transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, grades 1-6 and students from low-income backgrounds.
Transportation funding basics
When are local transportation service plans due?
Local governing boards must adopt their LEA’s first transportation service plans by April 1, 2023, and annually update them. These local plans must be adopted in open meetings with in-person and remote community input opportunities.
What components do LEAs need to include in their plans?
LEAs need to include descriptions of how their transportation services would be accessible to students with disabilities and those who are experiencing homelessness (as defined by the federal McKinney-Vento Act). They also must show how unduplicated students (English learners, low-income and foster youth that can be counted only once if they fall into multiple categories for the LCFF) will be able to access home-to-school transportation at no cost.
Regarding foster youth, Assembly Bill 490 allows children in foster programs to remain in their school of origin to provide stability and support their academic success. The transportation funds used for foster youth are not limited by any distance requirements, so partnering with community organizations, municipal services and other districts can help stretch funds further.
What educational partner groups does your LEA need to engage with?
The new statute requires that school districts and COEs develop plans in consultation with educational partners in their districts and communities. The Budget Act of 2022 adds a section to the California Education Code stating that LEAs’ plans, “shall be developed in consultation with classified staff, teachers, school administrators, regional local transit authorities, local air pollution control districts and air quality management districts, parents, pupils, and other stakeholders.”
Can LEAs work with local municipal services?
Yes. LEAs may develop their service plans in collaboration with local municipally owned transit systems.
Key questions to consider as LEAs develop transportation service plans
- In what ways can our LEA engage with a diverse group of educational partners to develop an equity-focused transportation plan?
- How can our LEA tailor its plan to address students’ needs in unduplicated categories?
- What opportunities does our LEA have to partner with local municipal transportation services to expand access to home-to-school transportation for students?
- Does your LEA’s existing policies and practices include providing school of origin transportation for foster youth?
CDE’s Home-to-school transportation webpage: www.cde.ca.gov/ls/tn/tr/
Transportation staff contacts by region: www.cde.ca.gov/ls/tn/or/regionassign
California Foster Youth Education Task Force guidance: bit.ly/3HpGwRf
For questions about funding transportation for foster youth, contact Andrew Peters in School Facilities and Transportation at the California Department of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy Anderson and Angela Asch are CSBA education policy analysts.