HOUSTON – Legislation passed in 2017, meant to make it easier for children who live in neighborhoods designated as high crime, has gone untouched by school districts statewide, the Texas Education Agency confirmed Wednesday.
S.B. 195, sponsored by then State Senator Sylvia Garcia, was passed in response to the May 2016 stabbing death of Josue Flores.
Eleven-year-old Josue was stabbed to death while walking home from school back in 2016. His case remains unsolved. The authorities have named two suspects in the case, but the first one was cleared by his alibi.
The second, a Marine named Andre Jackson, was released a year after his arrest when investigators said DNA evidence made it impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is responsible for the crime. Prosecutors said Jackson remained a suspect in the case, and in June 2019, he was indicted.
In response to the horrifying death, Texas passed the Josue Flores Act, which provides transportation funding for children who live within walking distance to schools in dangerous neighborhoods.
“To date – no school systems have applied for hazardous transportation funding,” wrote a spokesperson for the TEA in a statement to KPRC2.
Stella Mirelas Walters, founded Safe Walk Home, following Josue’s death. Walters, and other community members, worked with then-Senator Garcia to get the legislation drafted and passed.
“We want to keep our students safe,” Walters said, adding she suspected school districts, HISD included, weren’t well versed on what the law provides.
“It hasn’t been introduced to them. They don’t know anything about Senate Bill 195,” she said.
S.B. 195 provides up to an additional 10% of a school district’s transportation allotment for students who live within a two-mile radius of campus and don’t qualify to ride a school bus. The legislation allows for them to be transported by bus if students, “would be subject to hazardous traffic conditions or a high risk of violence if they walked to school,” the law details.
In a statement, the TEA said districts must provide data to prove an area qualifies under the guidelines.
“Each board of trustees shall provide the commissioner an explanation of the hazardous traffic conditions or area presenting a high risk of violence applicable to that district and shall identify the specific hazardous or high-risk areas for which the allocation is requested,” the legislation details.
There isn’t one answer as to why there seems to have been no interest among school districts.
KPRC 2 inquired about the matter to several and received the following responses.
Houston Independent School District:
“Currently, HISD Transportation is taking an exhaustive look at all areas within the district as it relates to hazardous areas for students that fall within two miles of their zoned schools. Transportation is working with local law enforcement to provide that data to the board in order to approve those areas, which in turn could possibly lead to reimbursement from the state. Current review of those areas is being planned for unveiling for SY 22-23.
- Luis A. Morales, Sr. Media Relations Specialist”
Fort Bend Independent School District:
“At this time, Fort Bend ISD has not identified students who would meet the criteria required to receive the funding.
- Sherry Williams, Director of External Communications and Media Relations”
CY-FAIR Independent School District:
“CFISD offers transportation for all students. We receive supplemental state funding for transporting students who live within two miles of a school but who would be subject to hazardous traffic conditions if they walked to school.
- Leslie Francis, Assistant Superintendent for Communication and Community Relations”