Mountain View Voice

News - December 23, 2011

Funding cuts create more stress for school bus system

As state slashes funds, MV Whisman must pay more to transport students

by Nick Veronin

The recently announced $1 billion cut to the state's budget is going to place even more strain on busing students in the Mountain View Whisman School District — a system that is already stretched far too thin, according to Craig Goldman, the district's superintendent.

"There's no where else to cut," Goldman said of his district's transportation department, which he estimates will lose about $250,000 in funding from the state.

Altogether, school districts across the state will lose $248 million in transportation funding, according to Tina Jung, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Education.

"The cuts are obviously devastating," Jung said, noting that the state has cut about $18 billion — roughly 24 percent — from its education budget over the past four years. Those cuts have prompted Mountain View Whisman to pare back its budget for busing.

"Because we've already experienced significant cuts in transportation funding from the state, the district currently runs in the red for both of these services," Goldman said. "Our program has been cut back so much already that we are only providing transportation to students who most need it."

Mountain View Whisman shuttles about 400 students a day with just two buses, giving priority to those children living in a few key areas — such as the former Slater and Whisman school attendance zones — where there are no longer neighborhood schools. Cutting back on those lines of services would put many families in a lurch, Goldman said.

On top of that, the district is required by law to provide transportation to about 70 special education students from all around the city. "We're not legally able to cut back on those services," Goldman said, adding that even if he could, he wouldn't. "We have a moral imperative to provide transportation for those special education students who could not otherwise get to school."

Although Goldman said he understands that California is facing a fiscal crisis, he is upset with the state's decision to cut K-12 transportation funding — especially funding for special education transportation.

"It's shocking that the state would consider special education transportation as a program that was suitable for funding cuts," he said. "They certainly know that we're legally required to provide the service. The cuts are directed at children and families that are already struggling to find success in their education experience."

Goldman said that any further cuts to the district's transportation budget will result in cuts to all students — even those who do not ride the bus — as the district would have no choice but to reallocate funds from other programs to backfill the transportation costs.

"The good news is we planned for the cuts," Goldman said. "Even though the state said we shouldn't plan for the cuts, we did. The cuts do not come as a surprise and we built our budget to maintain the current level of the service for the remainder of the year and for next year as well."

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