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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Feb 7, 2015

JenniferFischerTelemundo came to Val Verde Thursday night. They weren’t there to cover the potential expansion of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, which would have been a perfectly reasonable reason for them to be there. Nor were they there to cover a sensational act of violence or a sexy story of fraud or something like that. (Frankly, Val Verde doesn’t have any of those and hasn’t had any in a long time).

Instead, they were there to cover a potential challenge the community might be facing soon – a challenge that, when many in the community heard of it, they assumed it must be a rumor or the exaggeration of a busybody.

But Thursday night, the transportation manager of the Castaic Union School District and two bus drivers spoke at a Val Verde Civic Association meeting and expressed how potentially real the challenge is.

The Castaic Union School District is facing budget challenges, as is common in so many communities; education funding across the United States remains quite low in comparison to other government funding areas.

The result of these funding challenges is that there is a very real threat to school bus service for families in Val Verde. It was confirmed that approximately 200 of our students use this bus service daily to get to Live Oak Elementary School and Castaic Middle School, and that bus service to Val Verde is seriously in consideration of being cut for the 2015-2016 school year.

Many of these parents do not have a car, or they work hours that don’t afford them the luxury of being able to take their kids to school.

The Val Verde Civic Association is estimating that 70 percent of the families whose 200 children attend Castaic schools fall into this category. That’s approximately 140 kids who will be denied transportation to school because a school district can’t balance its own budget.

When a budget is tight and we consider cutting bus service, we have certainly decided that providing every child with an education is a low priority. It tells the children of Val Verde they are not important; their needs don’t matter.

Certainly, unforeseen issues arise, and yes, the district is facing a fiscal crisis. But cutting these kids’ education out of the budget is an unacceptable solution.

The Castaic Union School District is holding a budget meeting Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. Meetings like this are typically held at the district offices, but this meeting might be moved to a new location. Next week, I will make sure I write an updated commentary about this issue with the meeting location so that Val Verde, Castaic and other Santa Clarita Valley residents can attend and hear exactly how school funds are being spent and why the district feels there may not be enough funds for proper busing for its students and can voice their feelings about the issue.

I believe as a community, we must make it clear that our children must come first, not last. I believe that we can encourage the district to find other ways to manage their fiscal crisis.

I also believe this is not an issue unique to Castaic or Val Verde. For me, it reflects a larger nationwide issue in which education funding continues to rank low on our priority list. This must change, too. Our children deserve better.

Portions of this commentary were pulled from the Val Verde Civic Association meeting on Feb. 5 and were used with permission.

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

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17 Comments

  1. Steven Lee says:

    Wow! I would think the right to a free education would also include the transportation to get there. I am told that the superintendent is getting 180,000 a year. Is this true? To manage four schools? Did he just take a 30,000 raise in the mist of all this? These are the rumors I am hearing. That is how the system works of late, the teachers take more students than they should have in a classroom, the bus drivers get laid off, and those who never enter the classroom give themselves raises. It happens all over the United States.
    Great Article.

  2. Sara Jones says:

    May I suggest the possibility of the VVCA using a portion of the funds they receive from CLF to partially fund the school districts bus service.

    Just a friendly thought or suggestion as I am not familiar with all the issues in VV.

  3. Josh says:

    Maybe the money that town gets from the dump can cover the cost.
    I didn’t know any communities had bus service anymore but it sure seems like this one community is always complaining! All Democrats I guess, hands out, adding for more

  4. Annette Uthe says:

    While the state funds your district’s children’s education, that is no longer the case for their school bus transportation. I’m no longer up to date on the figures, but only children in the most intensive programs have reimbursement from the state for transportation, therefore the dollars to pay for school bus transportation comes from the general fund. Unfortunate, isn’t it?

  5. Tessa Lucero says:

    Not a new issue in the SCV…Hart district cut school bus service for the majority of their students back in the early 2000s. JHS students got bus service only if they lived more than 3 miles from school. High school students only got bussed under extreme circumstances. And the parents had to pay for the school bus service. We live near Sand/Soledad and were told that our 11 year old daughter was expected to walk 2.9 miles to Sierra Vista, along one of the busiest roads in Santa Clarita, crossing two major arteries, on a road that has had repeated instances of attempted child abduction. I’m surprised Val Verde still has bus service, at least for middle school students.

  6. Natalie says:

    When they cut the bus services in Junior high in the 90’s, that’s when I started cutting school to avoid public transportation and weirdos on the way to and from school. It’s unfortunate that transportation is not considered part of part of free and fair education.

  7. Greg Kimura says:

    For those who don’t know, I’m the President of the VVCA. Our treasury has a little over $200, so my organization cannot provide financial assistance.

    Some facts that should be considered:
    1. The distance the grade school kids will have to walk is 3.5 miles with most of it on roads with no sidewalks. It’s not reasonable to ask kids from 5 – 12 years old to walk these roads and that distance. Google maps says this should take 1 hour 7 minutes one way.

    2. The middle school is even further at 4.1 miles if they cut through Sloan Canyon a dirt road with lots of ruts. I wouldn’t want my kids walking on Del Valle or Hasley Canyon, so this doesn’t seem feasible either. Google maps says this should take 1 hour 25 minutes one way.

    3. If parents are forced to drive their kids to school, are the parents who currently drive their kids willing to endure more traffic from 120 kids at Live Oak or another 80 kids at CMS?

    4. Traffic is already horrendous now. Add that many more cars and it’s definitely going to be worse.

  8. Ramon Hamilton says:

    Sara Jones, that would be a great option, except the Val Verde Civic Association (VVCA) receives zero dollars from Chiquita Canyon Landfill (CCL). The VVCA is a volunteer organization with less than $100 in reserves. Source: I am a board member of the VVCA.

    The money goes directly to the Community Benefits Funding Committee (CBFC). The CBFC, as with many legal entities, sets a budget for it’s fiscal year, and earmarks the money for where it should be spent. The CBFC also polls the community, so they can get a gauge on what the community wants/needs. This issue came up within the past few weeks, well after the community was polled and CBFC decisions were made as to how the money should be spent.

    That being said, the CBFC is wanting to help out. However, the cost of the bus service, as provided by the Castaic School District Superintendent is $650K per year. The CBFC receives approximately $350k per year, which means it would not be able to cover the full cost. Additionally, it would mean that if all CBFC money went to the bus service, there would be no funds for additional community benefits.

    In sum, the CBFC doesn’t have enough to cover the cost, and has already decided where money should be spent prior to this issue arising. The VVCA receives zero dollars from CCL, and has less than $100 in reserves.

    Josh, the explanation I just gave should answer your first comment. CBFC does not have enough to cover the service. Cost is $650K, CBFC receives approximately $350K.

    Josh, I’m honestly not sure what the data is on how many communities have bus service, but it’s irrelevant. All children deserve to be educated. Do you agree with that? If not, please stop reading my comment. This means all kids. Those who have means to get to school without a bus service, and those that do not. It should be a number one priority for Americans to support EVERY child getting an education. If you disagree, please explain why you feel every child in this country is not deserving of an education?

    If we cannot find a way to make sure every child gets educated in this country, regardless of their financial situation, then we have truly failed ourselves as a nation, and have no right to complain when other nations prosper and we continue to decline.

    Lastly, Josh, I believe that education is not a handout. It is a necessity that all Americans deserve. If asking for every child to be educated in this country is similar to asking for a handout, then I’m truly at a loss for words. Prioritizing education means making sure all kids get to school and learn.Our kids deserve that, but I will always listen to a difference of opinion.

    Annette, yes it is very unfortunate.

    Tessa, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry for your situation, and honestly wish you did not have to be placed in that situation. I went to school in one of the wealthiest communities in Massachusetts. The suburb of Belmont. The town in which Mitt Romney lives in now. When I was a kid, and till this day, they have bus service. Not because the parents can’t afford it, but because the parents should not have to deal with the burden of whether or not their kid gets an education. Additionally, I also went to school in what was one of the poorest communities in Boston, the South End, back in the 80’s. My school was literally a 20 minute walk, and they offered bus service. This was mainly due to safety. This should be the case everywhere, including where you live.

    In sum, I don’t understand why some people find it hard to grasp that all kids deserve an education, without the burden being placed on the families. Transporting kids to school is the first step towards ensuring each child gets an education. There are also safety benefits that go along with school bus service. Some families legitimately cannot get their kids to school without the assistance of a bus service hence being denied an education. Please support Val Verde and all communities across America. Educating our kids, which starts with getting them to a school, needs to be a priority across this land.

  9. Stayci Donihue says:

    I think it should be noted that this service is NOT FREE. CUSD charges 325.00 for 1 student to ride the bus. Also, I would like to add, that as a REPUBLICAN living in Castaic, I think the Val Verde community and others affected by this have every reason to be upset.

    • Laura says:

      Stayci, an additional note. Not every child that rides the bus pays. If the student qualifies for free or reduced lunches, they ride for a discount or free, depending on the situation. Even with the amount of money that has recently been charged, the district is only changing a small percentage of what it costs to bus the children. It’s the lack of funding from the state that has forced all other districts in the community to cat transportation to students with the exception of special education.

  10. David Barlavi, Esq. says:

    Lunacy. Great heads up. Keep us posted.

  11. Abigail says:

    Thank you Stayci for setting the record straight. Many of the parents in Val Verde do pay for this bus service. One single mother I know pays $550 per year for her two kids. What has CUSD done with that money? Val Verde and Paradise Ranch are NOT looking for a hand out. However, it is very obvious someone has seriously mismanaged the money that has been assigned to CUSD – paid for by all of us in our taxes. I suggest starting at the top instead of at the bottom. They are being paid large salaries to screw it all up. The people who mismanaged the money should be held accountable. Cut salaries at the top and see if they start to make things work again.

  12. Ramon Hamilton says:

    Thanks, Greg Kimura for providing the correct amount of the VVCA’s funds.

  13. Lee Jones says:

    Jennifer Fischer,
    This article is a good way to politically create an up rising that might get some attention from a wealthy easily influenced individual that financial assistance could potentially be lured from; but I think you are underestimating the public’s intelligence, hence Stayci’s comment on how the transportation is funded by the students guardians let alone the bond that was just given to CUSD last year which has/had a $22,000,000 general fund to be distributed appropriately. Unfortunately the leaders in charge of these funds count on the short attention span of the general public which allows these leaders to spend and distribute money in an unorganized and irresponsible manner. Let’s not lose sight of the subject of the conversation at hand; I believe that you are aware of the points that I am making and also believe that you were persuaded to write this article, by what ever means, by the Castaic School District themselves. We all know that small groups have made the most dramatic changes in American history, so if we can dilute the truth and present the subjects of Val Verde with the issue of their children being denied transportation, then we will create an uprising that will hopefully get the attention of the state that line our pockets with even more.
    Is this how you want to pursue your career in journalism?
    Sincerely,
    Lee

  14. Greg Kimura says:

    At the Feb 3rd Castaic School District Board Meeting, the room was not only SRO, but there were people outside the building trying to hear what was going on inside. There are a lot of people whose livelihood will be affected by the Board’s decision.

    The next Board meeting is scheduled for Feb 19th. I think even more people will attend (or at least try to get in). Each group is fighting for their part of the budget and their survival. I heard that the deficit is -$1.4M and they must send a balanced budget to the state. That means cuts are inevitable and will happen. The question is where are they going to cut?

  15. Steven Lee says:

    I am told that the superintendent of Castaic makes 180,000; that is 45,000 per school. They have four schools. In comparison Lausd superintendent makes 330,000 for over 900 schools. That is roughly 367.00 per school. A big difference. Maybe Castaic should be incorporated into a bigger school district due to the theft of the taxes that pay for schools.

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