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Must Read: A Tough Assignment in Boston

The Boston Globe offers this editorial on changes to Boston’s well known busing system. Dismantling the school’s attendance zones and assembling a more neighborhood-based system could save $10 million per year in transportation costs. The paper calls the move “a leap of faith” but “still a leap forward.”

No education takes place during expensive, enervating bus rides across the city. The hours spent onboard actually undermine one of Mayor Menino’s best initiatives: linking the offerings of neighborhood schools, libraries, and community centers into enrichment zones available within easy reach from morning until late afternoon or evening. Johnson also wants to add intramural athletics at the city’s middle schools to the mix. A good library program or flag football game beats a bus ride any day.

The paper questions how prepared Superintendent Carol Johnson is for bringing equity to schools that will be largely minority and disproportionately under performing. Will she ask the employees for the same sacrifices she is asking of families?

What the paper does not ask and what we as an industry will have to ask is what sacrifice is she asking from pupil transporters? According the paper, there are more than 700 buses in a $76 million operation that’s expected to cost $99 million by 2015. As the paper points out, that’s no small amount. But reform means change. What is this going to do for the 700 people behind the wheels and the staffs and leaders that support them? What would it mean to us if schools around the country decided to focus on more neighborhood-based schools?

In past issues we’ve looked at what changes to desegregation systems mean for school transportation. So far, there is no consensus on what these kinds of changes mean for transportation or even how best they can be done. But we must ask ourselves these questions now instead of scrambling for answers when school board decisions arrive at the garage.

Take a look at the editorial and take a look at our op-ed. Remember, busing like isn’t just a “forced” black and white issue these days. There are racial systems, socioeconomic systems, hybrid systems, voluntary systems and even systems based entirely on student choice. If busing like this in your district, consider what changes like these mean for you. Share your thoughts and your experiences here.

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