By John Michaelson, Minnesota News Connection
When state lawmakers return to St. Paul next month, they will again consider a program that aims to help kids get to class and back on their own. Safe Routes to School funding could be used for everything from sidewalks and cross walks to bike lanes and pedestrian bridges.
Dan Brooks is the superintendent at Sauk Centre Public Schools. He says the need is great.
“Bus routes have been cut back in many districts across the state, and districts have extended their walking boundaries. Additional developments, increased traffic flows, different routes used by children — many of those kinds of factors are coming into play.”
With the rates of childhood obesity quickly expanding, Brooks says getting more kids to class by their own power would help on that front as well.
“Increasing physical activity in this day and age of technology and couch potatoes — we’d certainly like and hope to encourage that by Safe Routes to Schools.”
Brooks says his district has applied for funding under the national Safe Routes To School program, but was turned down, not for lack of merit, but for a lack of funding. The federal program also does not cover high schools or private schools.
State Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, will author a Minnesota Safe Routes to School bill in the 2013 session. Hortman says these types of projects always bring a large return on investment for the state.
“Because they’re usually a collaboration between a city, a county and a school district, and with all the members of that team working together, we make sure that the funding is targeted at the most effective projects.”
A transportation task force appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton recommends funding Safe Routes to School. In addition, supporters have put a video online, further explaining the need for the program. It may be viewed at www.youtube.com.