Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2 Quality Schools Close to Home?

On the home page of the website created for the School Choice project, Boston School Choice, BPS states:
Boston Public Schools is working to improve school choice and student assignment. Join us to create a system that supports great choices with quality schools, close to home.
On the Why the Time is Right? page, there are many good reasons stated for why a change should be made now. I would not argue that many of the reasons are valid, but there is one glaring omission to the reasons behind this push which is also the major reason why there is such a huge push to change this now: to lower the budget costs for busing students all over the city. BPS spends an exorbitant amount on busing, and not just for the students who actually attend the BPS schools either:
BPS also provides – and pays for – bus transportation for charter school, private school and parochial students who are not enrolled in the Boston Public Schools. State law requires BPS to drive charter school students to their schools even if they are outside their home zone, which is a much higher level of service than is provided to most students in BPS. Transportation costs are expected to rise by $2.6 million in FY13 and $20.3 million in FY14 as the number of charter school students in Boston increases.
I have no issue with cutting our transportation costs, as a BPS parent though my children qualified for busing, due to several horrible incidents with their busing, I transport them to and from school myself.  We do have to retain busing for students with disabilities of course and I suppose since the state law requires BPS to provide transportation for charter school students they will need to continue providing that also (at a higher service level than for their own students!)*.  Some questions that need to be answered by BPS:

  1. Why are we paying for transportation of parochial students?
  2. Many of our buses are not full, in fact some are practically empty, has BPS looked at expanding routes to include more students on each bus and therefor cut down the amount of buses used? 
  3. Can you show us a detailed break-down of the exact costs for all categories of students transported by BPS? 
    • District regular education students
    • District special education students
    • "In District Charter Schools" transportation costs
    • Non-BPS Charter School students with sub-categories for special and regular education students
    • Parochial school students
    • Other students
  4. Detailed list of number of students per route/trip, per bus should also be looked at.

No matter what we do, there will be those who go back to the Garrity decision of 1974 which desegregated Boston's schools and started busing here. The violence that ensued after forced busing was put in place still scars this city that I love and still scares many. Given Boston's racially diverse population and neighborhoods it is highly unlikely that we would see the schools segregated the way they were prior to the Garrity decision, but it is still a slim possibility in a couple of areas. 

However, there is a bigger segregation issue that may come into effect with the way BPS has changed recently and will continue to do so according to the proposals: our special education students could end up being the ones who are segregated despite the "Least Restrictive Environment" mandates within both state and federal special education laws. I will get into that again in a different post soon. 

The biggest problem I see with ALL the proposals as they stand are this: NONE of the proposals can ensure that every student receives a seat at a quality school close to home. 

Why is that? Simple: because not all schools in BPS are created equal and are not all "quality" schools, so therefor there can't possibly be a quality school within walking distance of EVERY CHILD in Boston.

Wasn't that what this whole process and these proposals were supposed to guarantee? Ut-oh.....


  1. I so agree with you that BPS should not be paying for charter and parochial school transportation -- or in other words, any transportation that is not to BPS schools! That would save some money in the transportation budget.

    I am also confused as to why there is such a rush to get feedback, recommend a plan and have the School Committee vote on it. Especially with all the BPS administration departures, don't they want to get this right? And judging from the "quality schools" issue, they have put the cart before the horse by suggesting new zones without equitable options. Sigh.

  2. Kathy,

    The rush is as it always is in BPS (as long as I have been paying attention anyway), if they make the time-line quick and condensed, especially during the holiday and winter season, chances are better that BPS will get a policy/plan approved.

    And I agree, the cart before the horse is definitely an issue here. But the argument is that we need to do something NOW according to my sources... I just fear that this will not only create turmoil, but also prolong the process of improving our schools as BPS will be so busy implementing the new zones etc that increasing quality in the schools will be pushed back.

    Thanks for your comment, it is also nice to know I am not the only one flummoxed by BPS ;)



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