UPDATE 3/9: Lake Elsinore Unified School District officials today released a Q&A on the home-to-school transportation program. That document is attached.
More than 100 school bus drivers, parents, and students turned out Thursday night at the Lake Elsinore Unified School District’s governing board meeting to protest a recent elimination of home-to-school transportation for local schoolchildren.
Although the school bus issue was not on the agenda, nearly two-dozen protesters pleaded with the board to reverse its to cut home-to-school transportation starting in the fall.
Many of the protesters donned yellow school bus driver shirts, and some carried signs.
“Do you want your child to walk Blood Road (Hwy. 74)?” one sign read.
Safety for kids was the top concern among the protesters Thursday night, particularly for those families who live in remote areas and whose children would have to walk more than five miles one way to get to school.
A handful of parents had gripping personal stories to share about their kids getting maimed or killed by motorists while walking to school.
Sheri Possehl said her 15-year-old son, Jessie, was killed in 2007 while riding his bike home from summer school along River Road in Perris.
Others said they fear what “might happen.”
Lynette Patton is a mother of two young boys, ages 10 and 5. Her oldest now attends Terra Cotta Middle School. Patton says she worked successfully with the district to get bussing started in her rural community, but prior to that her 10-year-old walked the notoriously dangerous Riverside Drive, she said.
“And now they want to take (the busses) away,” she lamented.
Despite the protests, the board did not waiver from its Feb. 9 decision.
Greg Bowers, the LEUSD’s assistant superintendent, Facilities and Operations Support Services, said district staff is “working very diligently” on the issue, but he said education budget cuts out of Sacramento have forced the draconian measure. He told the board, district staff is considering options, which may include funding transportation next year for only the most remote areas, such as Horsethief Canyon and areas off the Ortega Highway.
In February, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that restored school bus funding for the 2011-12 school year, but he left districts on the hook for the 2012-13 year. A few days after he signed the legislation, however, the governor also proposed overhauling the state’s school finance formula and replacing it with an approach called “weighted pupil funding formula.” The formula mostly eliminates dedicated funding streams for programs and operates similar to a block grant.
The weighted formula might provide some relief for struggling districts, but George Landon, the LEUSD’s Assistant Superintendent, Fiscal Support Services, said there isn’t anything concrete coming out of Sacramento that suggests the district will have its bus funding next year.
"It's just a proposal," Landon said of the governor's approach.