Hillsborough County Public Schools leaders are calling for improvements to the hazardous walking conditions statute. ABC affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa Bay reports that school board members are frustrated with the statute and want it to be updated.
The Hillsborough County school district is the third-largest school district in Florida with its 217,000 students. It transports more than 67,000 students, including another 14,000 students whose transportation is ineligible for a state funding contribution.
School districts like the Escambia County School District transport “ineligible” students without a state funding contribution in order to protect students from walking conditions that are hazardous but don’t satisfy the state’s hazardous walking conditions criteria for students. In fact, 35 of Florida’s 67 school districts report that they’re transporting no students around hazardous walking conditions. Is that because they have no hazardous walking conditions or because the statute is too cumbersome to work with?
Hillsborough County is home to one of the most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians (ranked 9th most dangerous by the National Complete Streets Coalition) and it also sits in one of the most dangerous congressional districts for pedestrians (ranked 14th). Nonetheless, since the 2013-14 school year, the Hillsborough school district has reported that it has transported more than 7,000 fewer students around state-funded hazardous walking conditions and nearly 2,000 more unfunded “ineligible” students. Over that same period, Hillsborough’s student rolls increased by nearly 14,000 students. [Source: 2013-14 Florida School District Transportation Profiles Report and 2017-18 Florida School District Transportation Profiles Report]
Two-thirds of Florida school districts that claim no hazardous ridership nonetheless have 10% or more of the students that they transport who are classified as “ineligible” riders by the state. That amounts to more than 12,000 students for whom the state provides no funding support. What good could those school districts do with those funds in the classroom?
It’s time to clean up the hazardous walking conditions statute.