With chronic absenteeism on the rise, why is California making school transportation harder? – Whittier Daily News

The Los Angeles-based ride-sharing company specializes in transporting children. It operates in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the San Francisco Bay Area. PHOTO: Courtesy HopSkipDrive

Graduation season is always a bittersweet time for me. It serves as a reminder of all I’ve accomplished and how proud I am of how far I’ve come. But it’s also a reminder of how close I came to not graduating high school.

I grew up in a family that experienced homelessness. My parents, two sisters, and I were constantly moving from one shelter to another, struggling to find stability. Eventually, my sisters and I ended up in foster care. Given how much we moved around, getting to school every day was one of my biggest challenges. Transportation often prevented me from going to school.

Today, chronic absenteeism in California schools is worse than it was before the pandemic. For so many children in California, chronic absenteeism isn’t the result of not wanting to go to school, it’s simply that they can’t attend.

In California, we invest a lot of money in our school bus system, which is an essential part of the way children go to school. But the reality is that yellow buses don’t work for all children, especially children in foster care. With absenteeism on the rise, it is more important than ever that we find ways to get all children to school.

This is not for a lack of trying on the part of our representatives and school leaders. Last year, California received historic funding for transportation. Everyone agrees that school transportation is essential for children and that it is a key factor in whether or not they can be successful in school. At this time of year, we have an urgent opportunity to get students to school every day to meet attendance and graduation goals.

But there is a bill pending in the California Legislature, Senate Bill 88, that would force transportation options that serve students with special needs to meet complicated, illogical and nearly impossible requirements. If Oakland State Senator Nancy Skinner’s proposal becomes law, these vital transportation options that help fill the gaps could find it hard to exist.

When I was moved into foster care, I desperately wanted to attend my home school so I could see my sisters, who lived in a different home. But there was no school bus or public transportation that could take me there, leaving me cut off from the most important people in my life.

In the span of a year, my sisters and I moved house five times, and I attended three different schools. Every time I changed schools, some of my courses didn’t transfer. I thought I was not going to graduate. In fact, I thought about quitting altogether.

For a while, I tried to take a two-hour public bus to school with my sisters, but I couldn’t keep up with the schedule. I was falling apart mentally and falling behind in school.

Eventually, my social worker alerted me to another option called HopSkipDrive, which works with school districts and other agencies to arrange rides for students who need extra help getting to school. All changed. The service reduced the trip to just 30 minutes and allowed my sisters and I to go to school together.

The shorter commute also allowed me to go to school early or sometimes stay late so I could catch up on the credits I missed. After much hard work, I graduated with a President’s Award, a Citizenship Award, and on the Honor Roll.