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Senate Bill Introduces Free School Bus Program For All California K-12 Students

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - A bill introduced last week would establish a state-funded school bus program that would provide free transportation to every K-12 school student in California both to and from school.

Sixth grade teacher Jordan Robinson is counting down the days until students are back in class.

"I'd probably have a party," Robinson said. "I'd be like we're all here."

It's not just COVID-19 preventing Natomas Unified School District students from being inside the classroom. It's that some can't even get there because buses aren't provided for everyone.

"I have parents who work the night shift, and are just like 'I couldn't get them there, I don't have anyone to pick up my child, I don't want them walking home, we live too far so I'm not going to send them,' Robinson said.

State Senator Nancy Skinner has a solution: a state-funded school bus program that would provide free transportation for all  students.

"We know students with transport miss fewer days of school and are more likely to graduate," Skinner said.

But who will pay for this program?

Though Senator Skinner's proposal was not specific, the money would come from the state's general fund and promises districts the resources needed to attract and retain bus drivers with more competitive wages and benefits.

"Right now, only 9% of our kids are getting school-provided transportation," Skinner said. "You have chronic absenteeism among some children who can't get to school. It affects attendance and students learning."

Several districts in Northern California don't provide school buses to students.

San Juan Unified school district in Sacramento County eliminated their general school bus program in 2011. Natomas Unified School district does not provide transportation for all students.

"It would be such a relief to families to know that resource is there," Robinson said.

The bill would allow school districts until the 2023-24 school year to implement universal home-to-school transportation.

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