COVID-19 and its variants have been a strain on everyone, especially low-income families and students in California’s diverse and transit-dependent communities where economic upsets have led to the loss of jobs and wages. This has made commuting to jobs and to school more difficult, and strained budgets for students and their families.
AB 1919, now awaiting a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee, would make fares free for all students in California and allow transit agencies to apply for grants to help them make transit free. The benefits for students would be many, not the least of which is that AB 1919 would help reduce inequity among students who can afford to drive cars to school and to jobs, and those who cannot.
The program would also reduce the financial strain on students and their families, improve educational equity and outcomes, reduce traffic congestion, and help California clean the air and reduce the emissions that help cause climate change. (Note that much of this text is borrowed from studies linked to excellent AB 1919 Fact Sheet HERE.)
A study by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs found that transit is disproportionately depended upon by those who are 16 to 30 years old, and that it is strongly associated with student status. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health finds that students without affordable transit options can suffer adverse educational outcomes, which is of particular concern to students in California because of their diversity, and because students of color are more likely to be transit dependent.
In other words, this study finds, these students are much more likely to have worse educational outcomes, and are more likely to drop out of school. Moreover, because of California’s current attendance funding formula for school districts, absenteeism, caused in part by a lack of reliable transportation to schools, deprives schools of million of dollars in annual funding.
So no one wins under the current situation, but these are not the only reasons that AB 1919 is important. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that transit options such as buses produce a third less greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation that students currently use—the personal vehicle.
For all of these reasons and many more we strongly urge you to call or write the seven senators on the Senate Appropriations Committee, five of whom live in Southern California, including Sen. Anthony Portantino, who chairs the committee and whose district stretches from the Sunland-Tujunga foothills all the way to Upland in San Bernardino County.
These seven senators are considering the impact of hundreds of bills, many of which will be put on the Suspense File and go no further. Your call or letter is extremely important and it's very easy: if you call their offices (phone numbers are at the link above as is an easy-to-use letter option) you will be asked for your name and address and the bill you are supporting. You can, but need not, say more.
Let's do this! Thank you in advance!