The road back to school this year is proving to be bumpy as districts across the nation grapple with school delays and closures as a result of bus driver shortages that have made headlines in Illinois, Kentucky, and Florida, to name a few.
The good news is that a growing number of states have passed law and policy with the goal of easing busing woes in years to come. Here’s a roundup of state policies that aim to modernize and improve K-12 transportation:
Arizona HB 2898
Arizona’s state legislature passed a budget to include $20 million in state funding for the continuation of the Transportation Modernization Grants Program, which initially launched in 2021, to support districts in developing efficient and effective transportation systems, including via partnership with alternate providers, nonprofits and local governments.
Colorado’s state legislature passed a bill to create a transportation task force that will publish a report by December 1, 2024 which must include recommendations to improve school transportation services for students. Additionally, Colorado has launched an electric school bus program with $65M in state funding to replace district diesel buses.
Florida HB 1
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law one of the nation’s most comprehensive education packages, which includes K-12 transportation reform and opportunities for innovation. Among other things, the bill: (1) Authorized districts to use alternate vehicles to transport students, (2) Removes requirement that district school boards use school buses for all regular transportation, (3) Eliminates prerequisites or any specific circumstances for when students can be transported in privately owned motor vehicles, and (4) Requires district superintendent and school board to adopt rules to ensure “safety, economy, and efficiency” for alternate vehicles.
Maryland HB 0696
In 2022, Maryland passed the Climate Solutions Now Act which set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2031. In conjunction with the law’s implementation, the State has invested state funds in the pilot of an electric school bus program to reduce the up front costs of converting to electric buses for purposes of k-12 school transportation.
Montana SB 69
Montana amended state law to clarify that passenger vehicles used to transport students to and from school, extracurricular activities or in case of an emergency are not considered ‘school buses’ under state law.