SEATTLE — Legislation passed today by the Senate would allow expanded transportation services when schools provide remote instruction during emergencies.
SB 5128, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), solves the funding gap school districts face in providing expanded services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been working with schools from the time in–person learning first stopped until today, and it is clear that budgeting for this situation is tremendously difficult for school districts,” Wellman said. “Usually transportation is used to take students to education. During school closures, transportation services have brought education, and many other necessary services, like meals and materials, to the students.”
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) calculates each school district’s transportation allocation based on ridership and district characteristics. However, Proclamation 20-70 signed by the governor authorized school districts to spend transportation allocations on an expanded list of permissible activities including delivering learning materials, meals, and technology solutions to students in their remote learning locations. Authorization also allowed for transportation to learning centers or other agencies where educational and support services are provided.
“We have not had ridership in school busses since March, so the current formula to determine allocations just doesn’t work,” Wellman said. “There is no precedent for how school districts should handle this situation. This will provide our schools the stabilization they need as they address their students’ extraordinary needs because of the pandemic.”
When an emergency is resolved, OSPI may use student transportation data from the last reporting period in which the school district provided full in-person instruction to calculate transportation allocations, under this legislation. This data may only be used until the subsequent reporting period when updated ridership data is available.
The bill passed from the Senate and will now be considered by the House.