Safe Routes to School E-News
Issue #38: February 2009
Safe Routes to School E-News is a monthly email newsletter published by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a growing national network of more than 400 non-profit organizations, government agencies, and professional groups that are working to set goals, share best practices, secure funding, and provide detailed policy input to implementing agencies for advancing the Safe Routes to School national movement.
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In this issue:
1. Resources Available for Those Struggling with School Bus Cuts
Creative, safe solutions to school bus cuts provided by Partnership working group
2. Federal Update – All Eyes on the Economic Stimulus Bill
The Partnership issued a letter to the conferees asking for provisions for SRTS
3. Call for Steering Committee Nominations
The deadline to apply is May 5, 2009
4. SRTS State of the States January 2009 Update
Another $78 million in SRTS funding awarded since November 2008
5. Safe Routes to School at the National Bike Summit
Register today. The Summit is March 10-12, 2009 in Washington, DC
6. Safe Routes to School State Network Project Update
Policy Feature: Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Curriculum and Instruction
7. Meet the Partnership’s New Intern
Please join us in welcoming Kristin Gavin
8. First Round of Oklahoma SRTS Funding Announced
More than $3 million awarded to 20 schools around the state
9. Student Neighborhood Access Program Unique to Utah
Individual schools can download a base map of school to create SRTS plan
10. Safe Routes to School News Throughout the Country
Local and state SRTS program news links
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership recently convened a special working group to examine the issue of school transportation cutbacks. The working group has produced a series of materials that we hope will prove useful for school officials and parents dealing with issues surrounding school bus cuts.
School districts all across the country are struggling to balance budgets and save money. In the summer of 2008, skyrocketing fuel costs had a significant impact on school transportation budgets. Now in 2009, the worsening economy, state budget crises, and shrinking property tax revenues are impacting school budgets. At least 20 states have implemented or proposed budget cuts to K-12 education per-pupil funding and local education grants.
When school districts face financial challenges, a common target for cuts are the school transportation system by cutting back bus routes, trimming the number of bus stops, or widening the walk radius around a school. Based on national averages, eliminating one bus route saves a school district approximately $37,000. In the summer of 2008, when fuel prices were at their peak, approximately one-third of schools consolidated bus routes in some way.
The materials provided by the Partnership’s working group include relevant background information, tools for advocates in media communications, and valuable resources for school officials and parents who are new to the issue. Examples of successful localities are also available. Click here to view these resources.
For the past several months, Congress has been focusing on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, meant to stimulate the economy and create and sustain jobs. Recently, the House and Senate both passed their respective versions of the economic recovery bill, and this week they quickly entered into negotiations, called a conference, to work out the differences between the two bills.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership immediately issued a letter to the conferees asking them to include provisions that would support healthy and green transportation options for families that also create jobs. We also sent out action alerts nationwide, and want to thank the grassroots supporters who swung into action on short notice to call their Members of Congress to ask for their help on these issues.
After an intense 24 hours, the House and Senate announced an agreement on February 11 for a final bill totaling $789 billion. The specifics on how those funds can be used are still under wraps, but below is a run-down on what we know, as well as what we don’t yet know (as of Noon ET on February 12):
- Funding for bicycle/pedestrian/Safe Routes to School projects: The agreement includes $29 billion for highway and bridge projects. We do not yet know if there is an explicit pot of funding within that overall amount for the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program, which would fund bicycle, pedestrian, and Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects. TE was in the original House bill.
- Funding for school modernization: The House had originally included $14 billion for school modernization grants to school districts, and one allowable use of funding was for improving bicycle and pedestrian access to schools. It would appear that there may no longer be a specific fund for school modernization, but that it has been rolled into a larger $54 billion state stabilization fund as a permissible use of funding.
- Funding for Healthy Communities: The House had provided $500 million for this CDC program which would provide funding to local communities looking to combat obesity and other critical health problems. We know that the conferees have provided $1 billion for a health fund focused on prevention and wellness, but the final breakdown of the program is unclear at this point and we don’t yet know whether Healthy Communities is specifically included.
Soon after the bill details are available, we will issue a fact sheet on how the economic recovery funding can be accessed by Safe Routes to School advocates for projects that create jobs and healthy and safe infrastructure for children walking and bicycling to and from school. In the meantime, please keep working to ensure that your local projects are on your local and state lists of ready-to-go projects. Talking points and a sample letter are available on our website.
The Partnership is now accepting nominations for several Steering Committee positions. Each organization that holds a seat on the Steering Committee must appoint an individual representative and an alternate to serve on behalf of his or her organization. Open seats and terms are:
- National group representing schools – one seat (2009-2012)
- National group representing bicyclists and/or pedestrians – one seat (2009-2012)
- National group representing health organizations– one seat (2009-2012)
- State or local pedestrian group – one seat (2009-2012)
- Local Government – one seat (2009-2012)
- State or local at large – one seat (2009-2012)
The Steering Committee, a diverse group of up to 21 members, functions as the Partnership’s Board of Directors and holds decision-making responsibility for the Partnership. The estimated time commitment for Steering Committee members is eight hours a month. The deadline to apply is May 5, 2009. For more information on the call for nominations and to view and download the call for application and instructions, click here.
In January 2009, the Partnership updated and improved upon the format for our quarterly State of the States Matrix. To view the impressive progress that states have made in awarding Safe Routes to School federal funds, click here.
Since the last update in November 2008, another $78 million in funding was awarded throughout the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This brings the states from awarding 70% of available funding (FY05-08) to 89%. Additionally, the states obligated another $18 million since November 2008, increasing the amount from 28% to 33%.
The Partnership sent letters to all Governors encouraging the states to keep up the good work, and to fully award and obligate their funding as soon as possible. We will continue to provide State of the States updates on a quarterly basis.
The theme of the National Bike Summit 2009 is Go for Green: Building Bicycling into the Transportation Bill. The Partnership will be participating in two workshops you won’t want to miss at the National Bike Summit! Please join us: every Congressional District needs to be represented.
The first one, Safe Routes to School Times Three, makes the argument that the remarkable success of the Safe Routes to School program signifies the need for a significant increase in funding and easier project delivery. Discover the game plan for boosting Safe Routes to School in the new transportation bill. The second workshop, Getting a Fair Share for Safety, will address ways that the next transportation bill can redress the balance of bicyclists and pedestrians accounting for 13% of traffic fatalities yet getting less than 1% of federal safety funds.
If you are planning on attending the National Bike Summit, and are involved with SRTS, please contact Margo Pedroso at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can help you make the most of your visit to the nation’s capitol.
To register today (and to view descriptions of other Summit workshops), please visit http://www.bikeleague.org/conferences/summit09/index.php
The ten SRTS State Networks have been improving policies in their states since 2007, and for many of them, Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Curriculum and Instruction had not yet been as pressing as other policy challenges. However, 2009 has created new opportunities for this subject. As SRTS federal funds have been making their way to schools, the need for quality bicycle and pedestrian safety and skills curricula and the need for funding to train instructors and teach classes has become increasingly important to our State Network partners and to local SRTS program leaders.
There are a number of approaches to teaching bicycle and pedestrian safety and skills, but many local program leaders don’t know where to turn to find the best educational approaches for school-age children. In addition, many programs are in need of funding to provide instruction in the schools where SRTS programs are creating a new generation of walkers and bicyclists.
As a result, Network states such as Georgia, the District of Columbia, Illinois, New York, and Oklahoma, among others, have been working on researching curricula for their states and/or promoting an existing curriculum developed by a State Network partner. These states have convened Action Teams with experts in education, health, traffic safety, and bicycle and pedestrian instruction to develop ‘best practice’ white pages to disseminate to SRTS program practitioners in their state. They have also been researching the best curricula from around the US, and seeking funding to pay for materials, training of instructors, student class instruction, and promotion.
The Partnership will also be working with our state and national partners to put together information on bicycle and pedestrian safety and skills best practices into a fact sheet that we hope to release this spring.
For more information, or to get involved in your State Network’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Curriculum Action Team, visit http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/state/4373
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership welcomes Kristin Gavin, who will be interning with us through the end of April 2009. Kristin is working on three primary projects with the Partnership. She is helping to develop a research section for the Partnership’s website that will be useful for practitioners, media, Congressional staff, elected officials and parents. Kristin will also be working with the Policy Manager to identify SRTS programs to interview and develop one-page profiles for primary use in Congressional offices. Finally, she will be compiling resources on Safe Routes to School curriculum – including age-appropriate topics, what to look for when teaching kids bicycle and pedestrian safety, and existing curriculum examples.
Kristin is dedicated to work involving physical activity and obesity, and is an avid cyclist. She is currently completing her Master’s of Kinesiology at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Oklahoma DOT recently announced the awarding of the first round of Safe Routes to School funding. Grants totaling more than $3 million were awarded to 20 schools around the state. The maximum grants were $200,000 for infrastructure and $20,000 for non-infrastructure projects. The second funding cycle began on January 27 with the opening of the Travel Plan portion of the application process.
In further news, Senate Bill 399 has been introduced in the Oklahoma Senate, which would establish a revolving fund to be used exclusively for Safe Routes to School funds. While the bill does not have any funding attached to it, the language will establish a process for distributing future Safe Routes to School funding, when it is received. The bill was introduced by Senator Cliff Brannon, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. It also has the support of Representative T.W. Shannon, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
The Oklahoma SRTS State Network Curriculum Action Team is nearing completion of the review of the Texas SuperCyclist curriculum which is being adapted for use in Oklahoma elementary schools. The Action Team hopes to have the document ready in time for the start of the next school year in the fall of 2009. Before it can be used in the schools, the teachers who will be presenting the curriculum must be certified to teach it. It is anticipated that certification classes can be held this summer.
Utah currently has forty-three communities participating in the SRTS program, which includes individual schools, school districts, local health departments, and other local agencies. Of those forty-three communities, 15% are non-infrastructure projects, which include bicycle fairs, walk to school campaigns, education and enforcement activities, and more. Utah also has twenty sidewalk projects that will be completed by 2010.
Utah’s SRTS program is currently accepting applications for its fourth funding cycle. The maximum award amount for an infrastructure project is $250,000 and $75,000 for non-infrastructure. Utah’s SRTS review committee plans to award approximately 10 applicants for the current cycle.
The Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP) is unique to Utah’s SRTS program. It consists of a software program and operation guide which allows individual schools to download a base map of their school to then create their SRTS plan, using tools designed for the software. Approximately 50% of all Utah schools now use this program. Utah is currently working to enhance the program’s capabilities to support a broader audience, both locally and nationally.
The Utah SRTS Coordinator continues to work with community partners throughout the state to further the goals of the program. One of the primary supporters of SRTS is the Gold Medal Schools Program, which is a school-based health education program sponsored through the Utah Department of Health. Collaboration with this program, as well as others, is key to the success of the SRTS program in Utah.
Safe Routes to School news around the country keeps growing! Updated regularly, see our new Safe Routes to School in the News media center for the latest in local, state, and national SRTS news.
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Funding for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership has been generously provided by the Bikes Belong Coalition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser Permanente, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, SRAM Cycling Fund, individuals and partner affiliates.
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