Curing Florida’s Hazardous Walking Conditions Statute without Unfunded Mandates

There are two abiding realities when it comes to creating a reasonable and responsible hazardous walking conditions statute:

  • it must recognize that students of all ages are endangered by hazardous walking conditions, not just elementary students through grade 6 as is currently written in the criteria, and
  • the conditions that are considered hazardous must be thoroughly credible

However, one significant barrier has kept improvements to the statute from being approved by the Florida legislature: the cost to local school districts.

In the past, proposed improvements have, as the current law does, required school districts to comply. Since past proposed improvements would have required transportation service for more students, that would have meant a requirement for local school districts to purchase more school buses, hire more school bus drivers, and develop the operational capacity to manage the process for compliance.

Any successful proposal to improve the Florida hazardous walking conditions statutes will need to mind the state budget but also not compel compliance by local school districts. Improvements to the statute will need to feature local control that provides school districts the discretion to determine for themselves whether and at what pace they will implement the parameters locally.

Specifically, proposals should:

  • permit school districts the option to transport students who live within 2 miles but don’t otherwise qualify for transportation service, but with no state funding contribution, and
  • provide school districts the discretion to transport students around hazardous walking conditions within a reasonable walking distance of school (1.25 miles in our proposal) with a state funding contribution.

Our proposal accomplishes these objectives and more.

Where the law currently says that local school districts “Shall provide transportation for public elementary school students…if such students are subjected to hazardous walking conditions,” our proposal says that local school districts “May provide transportation for students…whose homes are within 2 miles of the school they attend and for students…whose homes are within a reasonable walking distance of the school they attend, defined here as 1.25 miles who are subjected to hazardous walking conditions.”

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