(Genesis youth interns created a 3 part blog post to follow up from the Genesis November Forum. Here is installment #2, which focuses on state funding that might have helped restore the transit lines to Montera and Skyline. OUSD staff confirmed that this bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.)
What is SB 527 and how could it have helped with funding for youth transit?
At the second forum, a community member asked Director James Harris of the Board of OUSD if the funding made available through "SB 527" could be used for youth transit in Oakland.
His answer was, “Yes. That is if it passes.”
Senate Bill 527 was introduced by Stockton Senator Galgiani in February 2017. The bill addresses improved cost coverage for Home to School transportation. According to Sen. Galgiani, in 2014, California Local Education Agencies spent $1.4 billion on transportation, with only $492 million allocated from the state to cover these costs. (Senate Floor Analysis, page 2) The result has contributed to budget crises within many districts throughout the state. Costs of transportation have continued to rise but with the passage of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), allocations have been frozen to 2012-13 levels. SB 527 would have require funds received for school transportation programs to be adjusted by a specified cost of living adjustment.
The bill garnered support fairly quickly and passed through both the State Assembly and Senate with a unanimous vote. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill on October 13th.
So, why did the Governor veto Senate Bill 527?
Was he vetoing it just to veto something? In the Governor’s official message, it is stated that the bill was vetoed because there is already enough funding present within the LCFF system and the districts have the flexibility to implement programs that meet the needs of their population. As we learned from OUSD’s predicament which started in 2013, this is not entirely true. While the LCFF has its merits in addressing historical inequality, its fixed source of funding for home to school transportation gives rise to other issues of inequality.
Currently, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) serves the highest proportion of economically disadvantaged students as compared to any other district in the Bay Area. Cutting off supplemental service to Skyline High School and Montera Middle School would directly disadvantage students who need transportation to schools with higher resourced schools.
Bottom line:In OUSD, middle school and high school students may choose the schools they wish to attend. Students who choose to attend Montera Middle and Skyline High have determined that these two schools offer programs which may not be available in other schools. If they are allowed to choose, then transportation should be available so that they can attend schools which are not in their neighborhoods. This may increase their educational opportunities as well as increase diversity in these Oakland schools.
Also, it is not acceptable that the transit services to the two schools are cut. The issue at hand is more than what has been debated in the boardroom. Cuts to youth transit will adversely affect access to education and present a great financial burden on families. In Oakland specifically, it will mean "re-segregation" of schools in the hills and in the flatlands. There needs to be more pressure on the state and other sources who control the purse and determine where money is spent. Our hope is that more initiatives like SB 527 which might fund youth transit will be introduced and instigate a positive turn of events for low income Oakland students and beyond.