Public school districts across Orange County have reduced accessible bus routes for students due to a lack of funding, resulting in backlash from parents whose children rely on the school bus system.
The majority of Orange County school districts charge a fee for students to utilize busing to and from school. The lack of bus availability — due to a lack of funding — has driven up these costs.
While budget cuts have recently affected California schools, concern regarding funding for bus programs first gained traction in 2015. Following budget cuts that year, the bus fee for students within the Newport-Mesa Unified School District doubled from $180 to $360.
Increased prices have become the standard for several school districts in Orange County. In 2013, the Ocean View School District (OVSD) introduced a $75 busing fee for students that would increase over time. OVSD set $600 per year as the base price for riding the bus to school at a board meeting on Sept. 28.
Despite increasing costs, the option to pay for busing in the first place was only possible through the concerns of parents. OVSD had previously decided against providing bus systems for the 2021-2022 school year.
In September, parents urged the district to keep buses running. The number of safety concerns voiced by parents that did not want their children to walk long distances to school ultimately convinced the board to reconsider their decision.
Despite this success, not all routes provided to students are guaranteed nor consistently priced. For instance, the route provided to students of Marine View Middle School is not guaranteed, whereas the route provided for Oak View Middle School students is guaranteed and free of cost.
“I was right there when people needed toilet paper and water. But now the district isn’t there for me,” parent and essential worker Monica Cuadrado said regarding OVSD’s bus routes.
Fees are set to be reviewed annually by the OVSD school board.
Although California’s budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year set the goal of supporting homeless students and other underserved demographics, plans to revitalize bus systems have not been shared. While the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has planned to support students with six months of free rides, surrounding school districts have not shown the same effort.
Potential issues with the allocation of funds may be attributed to smaller-scale issues, such as a lack of consistently addressing transportation within the Orange County Board of Education’s monthly budget meetings. The most recent meeting on Oct. 6 did not have transportation on the agenda.
Those interested in following the Orange County Board of Education, accessing district pages and voicing concerns can visit the board’s website.
Angela Casillas is a City News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.