Recently, Menifee Unified School District announced that it will no longer be offering its students transportation services. While school districts are no longer required to provide transportation service, I want to go on record as saying that they should be required to do so. The students most affected by these cuts to transportation are of course, once again, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and mostly children of color. Menifee Unified’s decision feels like an attempt to oppress and marginalize a group of students who do not have another source of transportation and in many cases will end up walking miles to school. To be clear, the state and federal government MANDATE enrollment in public school. Parents are held to account for every absence a student has. Poor attendance is criminalized in the state of California! But some districts want to make it harder for kids to get to school.
The Education Code 48200 states the following:
“In California, every child between the ages of 6 and 18 is required to attend public school full-time,118 unless subject to an exemption.119 Every parent of a child ages 6-18 is legally mandated to ensure that his/her child attends school.120 “
Three absences can start a criminal investigation on the parent or guardian. Transportation is critical.
Every single homeowner in the state pays property taxes to provide revenue for local education. But what are taxpayers getting for their money? Cities like Menifee are new, overdeveloped communities that can well afford to allocate funding for school transportation. Parts of the community are still outlying and rural. Parents should not just accept this decision by the district, they should demand more from their district. Menifee Unified is not the only district in California that has moved in this direction, there are hundreds of districts that have either started billing parents for transportation or have eliminated it altogether. This is not acceptable when many districts are also “cracking down” on chronic absences and sending parents to jail over student absences.
I can recall a report about parent outrage over the fees for transportation in Menifee’s neighboring city, Temecula. Parents are charged up to $1,100.00 for bus service in that district.
In 2014, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office offered a report on the state of school district transportation. In that report, the LAO identified 14% of students as bus riders. It also shows clearly, that year after year, funding allocated for transportation had been cut drastically. There is a timeline that shows the history of transportation services from its inception to the systematic defunding of the program. But there has been no systematic decrease in collection of property taxes.
Parents need to be more active in their school districts and hold their school districts accountable when they make detrimental decisions such as this. Contact your state legislator and demand that transportation be written into the Education Code.
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