A bill to provide transportation for students to attend public schools outside of their assigned campus cleared its first hurdle at the Arizona Senate.
The Senate Education Committee approved the bill, Senate Bill 1683, which would establish a $10 million fund to provide grants to public schools and municipalities to provide safe and reliable transportation for open enrollment and charter school students. Parents also could receive monthly stipends for driving and mass transit costs.
Ensuring every student gets the best educational fit possible regardless of their “zip code or economic status” is the intent, said a proponent of the bill, Emily Anne Gullickson, president and founder of the education advocacy group, Great Leaders, Strong Schools.
“We know that transportation barriers are real and, although we have a robust set of options for families, you really don’t have a choice unless you can get there. So this bill is all about access to public learning opportunities that will benefit each individual child,” said Gullickson, who testified at the hearing.
Sponsored by Senate Education Chair Sen. Paul Boyer, the bill also includes a component for schools and cities to receive grants to do data analysis to find more efficient ways to transport those students who need it.
What the bill provides
The bill would create the Transportation Support for Enrollment Options Grant program, which would:
-Allow a parent to apply for a stipend of up to $80 per month for driving or mass transit costs for their student to attend a public district or charter school. Parents would be eligible for the funding if they need financial support to transport their child from home to school and back or if they live within 20 miles of the school district boundary of the selected school but a bus is not available in their neighborhood.
– Require at least 25 percent of the grants support rural and remote proposals from districts, municipalities and parents.
-Provide modernization grants to municipalities to improve bus routes to transport students more efficiently and safely to their chosen school.
Modernization grants would support innovation in transportation
The bill includes modernization grants to support the development of innovations in public school transportation including:
-Transportation resource sharing with school district and charter schools.
-Developing or contracting with rideshare programs.
-Planning and construction of bus stops in front of low-income and multi-family housing or at locations where there are high numbers of open enrollment students.
-To reevaluate bus routes to eliminate ride time for students.
Supporters say options should be available to all, not just affluent
Arizona has one of the most robust open enrollment systems in the nation.
Gullickson said it’s important that families of all incomes, not just the affluent, have access to transportation to attend the schools of their choice.
“SB 1683 is all about expanding transportation options for students and families that are utilizing public school options, whether that’s through open enrollment in their existing schools districts or a neighboring school district or a public charter school,” she said.
Organizations that support the bill
A number of organizations support the legislation including:
Arizona Charter Schools Association
Excellence in Education
Yes, Every Kid
Stand For Children
Americans for Prosperity
Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry
To read the text of the bill, visit: SB1683.