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Legislators Restore School Bus Funding, Cut General Spending

Aired 2/3/12 on KPBS News.

California legislators vote to spread mid-year budget cuts across all school districts.

Leaders of rural school districts across California are cheering a bill legislators passed Thursday to restore a mid-year funding for school transportation. The governor is expected to sign the measure.

When state revenues fell short of projections in December, one of the triggered budget cuts was a $248 million reduction to the fund for home to school transportation. Those cuts were scheduled to go into effect Feb. 1 and would have fallen most heavily on rural areas like Julian where 184 students travel to school by bus across the 620 square mile district.

Many of those are from low-income households that would have no other way to get them to school if bus service were cut, according to Kevin Ogden, superintendent of Julian Union Elementary School District.

The cut will now come out of general per-student education funding, also called ADA.

“Small, rural school districts up and down the state were losing were losing as much as $1,000 per ADA and higher" Ogden said. "It puts things back in a more even playing field.”

Because about half of his district's students rely on buses to get to school, Ogden said discontinuing service was never an option.

“We’ve had to dip into reserves to keep those buses on the road," he said. "So what this does is it gives us some breathing space as we plan for the looming cuts next year.”

That breathing room equals about $50,000, or 2.5 percent of the district's budget.

San Diego Unified expects the shifted cut to have no impact on the total mid-year cut the district is absorbing. Spokesman Bernie Rhinerson said the trigger cuts will still cost the district about $9 million.

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