AC Transit- Oakland schools rift could leave students without transportation

AC Transit and the Oakland Unified School District may be headed for a confrontation that could leave 1,100 of students without transportation to and from School. The District says it should not have to pay to the transit system.

Students from Skyline High School and Montera Middle School as well as those using some other lines, depend on AC Transit.

"I wouldn't have a ride here.  That's my ride to school and home. I wouldn't know what to do.  It's like a long way here from where I live. I would be late to class.  Yeah, it would be bad," says Skyline student Anthony Tarnica.
AC Transit says it has created specially crafted routes, not along regular routes, that run only on school days at a cost of about $4.5 million a year.

The Oakland Unified School District, facing a $30 million deficit, says that on top of what the students have been paying, the district long been paying AC Transit $2.25 million a year; money the district got from the state.

"That funding stream has changed since then. That money is no longer there for us.  So, we can't give the money to AC Transit anymore," says John Sasaki, Oakland Unified School District spokesman.

On top of that, the district says that Alameda, Fremont, Hayward, Newark and West Contra Costa school districts as well as some private schools and colleges, have gotten the service for free. "So this was about equity. This was about fairness for our students and for the people here in Oakland," said Mr. Sasaki.

The possible loss of these routes is very troubling to students. "I take three buses. Morning; wake up at 4 o'clock and then take the bus around 6.  That's the only way I can come up here; because some parents don't have like cars," says Skyline student Heleni Tufunga.

Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for the transit system said by phone that the system is perplexed and is baffled as to why the school district hasn't gotten back to them after requests for a meeting.

Later in the day, the transit system issued this statement: "Unless another fund source is identified, will lead to a potential impact on the level of service." 

AC Transit has implored OUSD to contact our staff to sit and negotiate all concerns." "We met with them last April. We met with them last August. We met with them in October. We met with them last month," counters Sasaki with the District.

For now, nothing changes, but AC Transit now faces a multi-million hole in its budget. The students are caught in the middle. "It's very important. This concerns because we're in poverty," says student Michael Yin.

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