California state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, introduced SB 878, Road to Success. It would establish a state-funded program to ensure that every TK-12 public school student in California gets transportation to and from school each day.
“Getting to and from school should never be a barrier to student success. The research is clear: Students with school-provided transportation miss far fewer days and are more likely to graduate,” Sen. Skinner said. “SB 878, Road to Success, will ensure that not having a ride is never again the reason for a child to miss school.”
SB 878, Road to Success, is sponsored by the California School Employees Association (CSEA). The legislation would replace the state’s outdated and severely underfunded school transportation program.
“California’s home-to-school transportation program was originally intended to reimburse districts for school transportation, but its funding formula hasn’t allowed for increases in almost a decade while costs like fuel, labor, and maintenance have skyrocketed. Sen. Skinner’s SB 878, Road to Success, would ensure that all public-school students are offered safe and reliable transportation to school and back home by providing schools with adequate funding to expand existing services, update their bus fleets and offer competitive salaries to address their school bus driver shortage,” said CSEA President Matthew “Shane” Dishman.
SB 878, Road to Success, follows Sen. Skinner’s landmark initiative from 2021, Free School Meals for All, which was included in the 2021 State Budget Act, making California the first in the nation to guarantee that all public school children are offered two free meals a day at school. However, when it comes to home to school transportation, California is an outlier, with many school districts that do not provide school transportation. SB 878 will bring California up to national standards for home to school transportation.
The lack of free school transportation in California has had wide-ranging and long-term negative impacts on children, especially on students from low-income families and communities of color. Studies show a strong relationship between access to transportation and improved school attendance, especially among younger schoolchildren. In November 2020, the state Department of Education released data indicating that the lack of transportation to school was one of the most common reasons that students miss school.
Students missing class, in turn, leads to lower graduation rates. Several studies have shown a marked increase in high school graduation rates among youth who were guaranteed transportation.
The lack of a high school diploma, unfortunately, can lead to a lifetime of hardship. According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans without a high school diploma are three times more likely to live in poverty than the average working adult.
Free school transportation will also help the fight against climate change. Nationally, school bus transportation has the capacity to eliminate 17 million cars on the road and reduce 20 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Transitioning the school bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles, and providing local educational agencies with proper training and resources to manage zero-emission bus fleets, will lead to an even greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and improvements in health for pupils, school employees, and the public.
“By reducing the number of cars on the road and cars traveling to and from schools, my Road to Success bill will also improve children’s safety,” Sen. Skinner added.
Under SB 878, starting in the 2023-24 school year, all public school children in grades TK-12 will be offered free transportation to and from their neighborhood school each day, provided that the state pays for all the costs of the program. Many school districts may launch or expand their own public school transportation systems funded by the state, or they will be able to partner with public transit agencies to get students to and from school.
Sen. Nancy Skinner represents the 9th Senate District, is chair of the Senate Budget Committee and vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.