The budgetary politics of school bus seatbelts

Under a 2007 law from which Gov. Rick Perry milked a lot of favorable publicity, this school year was the deadline for school districts in Texas to comply with a requirement that all new school buses have passenger seatbelts.

But guess what?

Some districts are complying, but many, including Houston ISD, the state’s largest, aren’t. It seems the seatbelt law has become a victim of the budgetary crunch – and maybe some political indifference in Austin as well.

The state initially set aside $10 million to reimburse districts for seatbelt costs. But according to a story aired by KPRCTV, Channel 2 in Houston, the Texas Education Agency cut all but $3.6 million of that to comply with Perry’s directive for state agencies to reduce spending.

Some districts, including Dallas ISD and Beaumont ISD, already have spent local funds to purchase new buses with seatbelts anyway. But many other districts, including HISD, haven’t because most districts are grappling with money troubles of their own.

The 2007 law was prompted, in large part, by the deaths of two girls and injuries to many others in the 2006 crash of a charter bus carrying a Beaumont High School soccer team. Perry signed the law in Beaumont at the school the victims attended.

Now, the Texas Education Agency, headed by Perry appointee Robert Scott, is recommending that the seatbelt law become voluntary. It is advising districts that want to buy seatbeltequipped buses anyway to apply for grants for reimbursement.

Here is a link to the KPRC story:

http://www.click2houston.com/news/24704010/detail.html

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