Colorado Senate approves $5.5M to improve school bus safety

A new Colorado safe-student protection program that has been years in the making moved closer to reality when that state’s Senate approved funding for SB22-085. The bill is also known as Anna’s Law, in remembrance of an 11-year-old student who was run over and killed by her own school bus last month.

The Child Safety Network (CSN) joined the parents of Annaliese Backner in making the plea to legislators that they increase the amount of an annual grant program created by SB 22-085, which was introduced in January by Sen. Don Coram.

Coram was joined by Sen. James Coleman on April 6 in submitting an amendment to the state budget that would use a portion of Colorado’s reported 20 percent budget surplus to fund the program. The Senate approved $5.5 million in year one to begin implementing an array of school bus improvements, including a parental notification app to alert when a school bus is arriving or is late to pick up students.

Ward Leber, chairman of the Child Safety Network, said the bill also requires the app be useful to all parents regardless of how the student goes to school. “In particular, it must provide age-appropriate expert advice and free parenting resources to help parents raise safer, healthier children,” he added.

Telling School Transportation News that funding “is the hardest part of getting any bill into law,” Leber said the next step will be for the Senate to vote on the bill before it can advance to the House.

‘My daughter’s death will not be in vain’

Leandra Backner, Anna’s mother, expressed her gratitude to Coram, Coleman and the other senators who voted for last week’s amendment.

“It means that my daughter’s death will not be in vain,” she shared. “It means that my sweet Annaliese will be part of a plan to protect all students in Colorado, so that no parent has to go through the pain and loss that we are experiencing now and for years to come. 

“Thank you, senators, for restoring my faith in the priorities of our state’s leadership. If Anna were here today, she would want to hug you all and thank you for helping her friends get to school and home safely every day. God Bless you for protecting our children.”

Coram’s legislation would also add silent alarms and crash detectors on school buses to alert first responders of its exact location. “FDIC-insured banks have silent alarms, but not our school buses,” according to a CSN statement. “It’s time to change that oversight.”

Includes improved training for drivers

Anna’s Law would launch a statewide campaign targeting motorists that illegally pass stopped school buses, train all school bus drivers on the Transportation Security Administration’s First Observer Plus program, provide advanced driver training to include transporting children with special needs, and implement a “No Bullies On Board” campaign. Participation in both the TSA Training and advanced driver training courses include certifications and are not mandatory.

Funds from the bill must also be used to develop effective methods of reducing the school bus driver shortage.

In all, the bill asks for $13.5 million over three years. If Anna’s Law passes the Senate and House and is signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, the initial $5.5 million would go toward implementing the technology on buses across the state. Less funding would be needed the following two years, Leber added, because much of the technology would already be installed and corporate sponsorship secured by CSN would start to offset other expenses.

Meanwhile, CSN added Coleman as a recipient of the 2022 Colorado Safe Student Protection Award. Coram, legislation cosponsors Reps. Barbara McLachlan and Marc Catlin, and Senate Education Chair Rachel Zenzinger were honored in February during the Colorado Association of School Boards Winter Legislative Conference.

Reprinted with permission from School Transportation NewsRead the original post.


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