A study has shown that short-distance busing to neighborhood schools can save money vs. current practices of busing students to schools across town. This is being done as parents, concerned for safety and well-being of their children, choose to have them attend where they can ride a bus to school. Now, state law prohibits state aid for busing students less than 1.5 miles; they must walk if they wish to go to a local school. The report prepared for the school district shows "change in policy allowing buses for >0.5 miles vs. >1.5 miles will increase ridership resulting in a significant reduction in the number of buses needed and the cost per trip!" And, if the number of short-distance riders increased and attended local schools, busing totals saved could be from over $4-6 million. Those are your tax dollars!
Not only would attending neighborhood schools allow more kids eventually to walk, but it would be easier for parents to be active participants, attending teacher conferences, school plays and sports, or volunteering at school. Older neighbors may also more easily volunteer, and children would be able to play with schoolmates near their homes. More vibrant neighborhoods could result! Improved property values would also follow, as parents would be more willing to stay in their homes when children reach school age. And more people would be willing to move into what they view as a more desirable location.
Check out the report results yourself: School Bus Cost Impact Study FIN.pdf
Then, contact your local legislator and ask him to support short-distance school busing:
David Gantt (Dist. 137,) GanttD@nyassembly.gov
Michael Ranzanhoffer (Dist. 61,) firstname.lastname@example.org
You might also wish to attend the Nov. 28 meeting of the Southwest Common Council Education Committee from 6:30-8 PM at Arnett Library. The local busing issue will be discussed. The cost-impact study dates back to 2015. What has happened since?
Here is a map that shows what a 1.5 circle around School 16 looks like. Can you imagine parents having their kids walk 1.5 miles across dozens of intersections? When there was no busing, students walked to their nearest school. Also back then there was usually a parent or friend who would walk the younger kids to school and be there when they got home. The green circle represents a half mile from the school. That walking distance is much more doable. That is why we had schools peppering our neighborhoods.
Over the past 70 years structural racism led to white/affluent flight out of the City. The resulting concentration of poverty in our City schools contributed to lower performance of the schools, further causing an exodus from the City when parents had kids reach school age. If they could afford to move out they did. Busing was used for special programs such as MAP and magnet schools to encourage parents to stay in the District.
Still, most schools had performance problems and in 2002 the Managed School Choice program was started to promote "equity". Every parent had a chance, however remote, to send their child to the best school. Parents could select a "better" school to send their child to, and a lottery was used for schools that had too many applicants. Parents soon found that they could always find a school that was 1.5 miles away from their house to send their children to. That provided safety for their children and got them out of the house earlier so that parents could leave for work. That added to the school performance problem because parents had more difficulty participating in their child's school. Also, neighborhoods had less interest in their local schools since their kids or grand kids did not go there.
We can't put the busing genie back in the bottle, but we can provide short distance busing to get kids back to their neighborhood schools and rebuild our schools and neighborhoods.
SUPPORT FOR LOCAL BUSING OF RCSD ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
Currently, New York state pays RCSD 90 percent of transportation costs for students, but only if they travel more than 1.5 miles to school. This policy provides an incentive for parents to enroll their children in schools outside their neighborhoods. During the current school year, only 17 percent of Rochester elementary-school students, on average attend their neighborhood school. Only 14 percent, on average, attend the K-to-8 school in their neighborhood. If Rochester had flexibility to bus students less than 1.5 miles, more families would choose neighborhood schools.
Here are some factors we need to consider when evaluating busing issues:
The initial school choices parents make based on busing availability is for kindergarten. Few parents want their five year-old walking alone even 3 or 5 blocks in good weather, let alone in winter.
Once the school choice is made to permit busing, the student is likely to continue going to that school until they graduate from that elementary school.
A number of organizations have tried to organize "walking school-buses" That would save on busing costs but they only work if there is a concentration of students attending their neighborhood school.
Schools benefit from parent and community engagement. If the child's school is 1.5 of more miles away it is very difficult for the parent to get to their child's school via public transportation for school functions, to talk to teachers or to volunteer.
It is easier to recruit volunteers from the neighborhood to work in the school if indeed many neighborhood students attend the school.
If students attend their neighborhood school, friendships made in school extend back into the neighborhood. This brings parents together and builds community.
We would appreciate your support in our effort to make neighborhood schools the rule rather than the exception for most Rochester families.
To help collect names on a petition for this effort, here is the above cover sheet for the petition and the petition in PDF format for easy printing:
If you can collect signature and get the petitions to me we will use them in our lobbying effort. You can contact me at email@example.com and I will pick them up.
We have a new on-line school busing petition we would like you to sign: