As Florida’s legislative session approaches, we will likely begin to see proposals emerge that are related to the hazardous walking conditions statute but don’t focus on the flaws that are endangering our students every day and are costing our school districts millions of classroom dollars every school year.
One such strategy has pressed for making more students eligible for transportation service by tinkering with the distance between home and school that qualifies students for transportation service rather than fixing the hazardous walking conditions criteria directly.
Taking that approach would certainly result in transporting tens of thousands more students to school statewide, but those students would not be the ones who are endangered by genuinely hazardous walking conditions from what is truly a “reasonable walking distance” from school.
That approach has stalled the effort to cure the statute for years because it doesn’t resolve the gross inadequacies in the statute and it imposes mandates on local school districts that would be forced to endure the cost of hiring more bus drivers and purchase more school buses which might be beyond their capacity.
Our proposal is different. It simply ensures that the statute’s hazardous walking conditions criteria is reasonable, makes sense, and safeguards students from hazardous walking conditions while not only imposing no new mandates on school districts but also removing existing mandates and burdensome processes.
We don’t object to broadening the general student transportation eligibility parameters to include students who live say 1.5 miles from school versus the current 2 miles, but that is a separate issue that should not be mingled with the need to improve walking conditions that are endangering our students today.
Real solutions to the hazardous walking conditions statute will focus on the hazardous walking conditions criteria first. Other agendas can be tackled later.