Despite cuts, ASJU district plans to continue bus service in San Benito County
The Aromas-San Juan Unified School District plans to continue offering transportation to school children within its district, according to Superintendent Willard McCabe.
A state cut of 50 percent to the transportation budget for the remainder of the fiscal year left the district short $161,000 for transportation, but McCabe said the service will remain intact this year and next year, even if 100 percent of the state funding is cut.
McCabe said the cut came out to about $134 per student enrolled in the district, which includes San Juan School, Aromas School and Anzar High School.
“It was significant to us,” he said. “Next year it will be double.”
McCabe said with a rural district, the routes to school for his students often do not have sidewalks or bike lanes that make it safe for students to get to school on their own. More than that, he said, is a concern about making schools accessible to the most needy students.
“The families with the greatest need are unable to transport their children to school,” McCabe said. “They are low-income, single parents or both parents are working. It becomes a real hardship for them to have to transport their children to school.”
McCabe said that his district may look into streamlining the nine buses that service the routes throughout the district. He said 480 students use the general transportation, in addition to special education students.
“Even though it is a significant financial burden, we have to do that for our children who are in poverty,” McCabe said. “The over-arching concern is to make sure that children of poverty are in a level playing field when giving access to education. It is important that they have an equal opportunity to excel.”
The Aromas-San Juan district’s transportation budget is $455,000, with $323,000 coming from the state. That figure, of course, has been cut in half for this year so that the district has $161,000 for the 2011-12 district.
McCabe said that a proposed state senate bill would benefit the district since it would switch the funding cut from the school’s transportation budget to the general fund, meaning that the cut would be determined based on average daily attendance.
“It would be an enormous benefit to us,” McCabe said, adding that the 2012-13 budget is still up in the air since it hinges largely on Gov. Brown’s proposed ballot initiative for November.
“We have ample reserves,” McCabe said. “We will probably set aside an amount that is equivalent to that (potential cut) in the event that it does happen. If it (the ballot initiative) passes, we will free it up. We will anticipate the worst and hope for the best as we look forward.”
The Aromas-San Juan Unified School District runs its general education transportation internally, but contracts with the San Benito County Office of Education to transport special education students from the Hollister area.
Last week the Hollister School District trustees voted 3-1 to eliminate transportation for its district for the 2012-13 school year. The San Benito High School district Finance Director Debbie Fisher said the district would maintain its bus service for next year.