The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…

One of the more obscure laws to emerge from the 2007 General Assembly allows local school boards to work out deals with private schools to transport their students on the same buses. Predictably, this common-sense measure was opposed by the Virginia School Boards Association on the grounds that public money should not “subsidize” private education. (Don’t you love that attitude? What? Save money? Not if it means helping those stinkin’ private schools!) But, as the Daily Press observes in an editorial today, the idea makes a lot of sense.

Any time public school buses are driving with empty seats, those buses have unused capacity. If public school systems can generate revenue from filling those seats, it comes out ahead. As the DP writes:

If a public school bus traverses a neighborhood picking up children, why should the bus for a private school – or multiple buses for multiple private schools – follow behind? Why should our roads be clogged with two buses when one could do the trick? Why should the environment be assaulted by the cars of multiple parents driving their children to private schools, when those children could all ride a single bus? It could work out well for their parents. They’re paying for the transportation operations of their local schools, so why shouldn’t they be able to use what their taxes are supporting?

It could work out well for the public schools. They could negotiate fees that would help meet their perennial need for money to pay drivers better and replace buses as they age.

In the grand scheme of things, this bill will affect education in Virginia only on the edge of the fringe of the periphery of things. But it does represent the kind of outside-the-box thinking that we desperately need to make the educational system work more efficiently and deliver better educational outcomes. Kudos to the people, whomever they are, who came up with this idea. But don’t get complacent. This represents no more than a few steps on a thousand-mile journey.

(Photo credit: American Lung Association of Virginia.)

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9 responses to “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…”

  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    P.S. The next step in re-thinking public school transportation is making schools more accessible to nearby students to reach on foot or bicycle. For some bizarre reason, most suburban schools are hermetically sealed off, with fences and wide-open fields, from the residential neighborhoods they serve, with the result that buses have to pick up the students or the parents have to drive them. I surmise that this insanity is the fault of the schools, but rather of local zoning codes. But school administrators should lobby to change it.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “For some bizarre reason, most suburban schools are hermetically sealed off.. from the residential neighborhoods they serve,”

    Unfortunately the reason is not rules but a pervasive societal culture, reinforced by things like the VaTech tragedy that many folks, in fact, believe it is unsafe to let kids walk to school -anymore.

    In fact, I see folks with their kids in their cars waiting for the school bus in perfectly good weather now days.

    I’m not sure other places like Canada, Austrailia, Europe, etc live in such fear as we are apparently doing… now days and so I wonder .. what is happening to us.

  3. Groveton Avatar

    Good for that bill. It shows good sense. There are too many half full school buses on the roads. Bad for congestion, bad for the environment, just bad. And, as Larry Gross points out, too many cars with parents taking their kids to school.

    As for the comment about suburban schools being hermetically sealed off – I am not so sure of that. Aren’t the wide open fields for kids to play? Aren’t the fences meant to keep teenagers from drinking beer and generally making mischief on those same fields at night?

    I think the lack of walking or biking to school has a lot more to do with the parents’ attitudes than fields or fences.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    How do you justify having taxpayers
    support a transportation system for
    those who have abandoned public schools for a private schools — most of which are religious schools today supported by the far right wing who want to destroy the public school systems?

    This is an awful idea, but one the
    right wing conservatives on this
    blog would support.

  5. Groveton Avatar

    Every child in a private school is one less child in a public school.

    When two half full buses become one full bus there is less pollution and congestion on the roads.

    The roads that the private school buses use are a form of government support for private schools.

    No reasonable person would call me a conservative.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m no right-wing conservative but I do feel that our current public education system uses an enormous amount of money – more so than many industrialized nations and does not produce equivalent results and that it has become insular, resistant to change and hostile to genuine accountability.

    I’m not opposed to taxpayers/government providing services but without performance metrics for cost effectivness such enterprises can and do become fiscal black holes.

    Further – we should never reject out of hand, the option of private enterprise providing a needed service – as long as they are held to specific performance metrics and levels of service…

    … the same standard that we should be holding our publically-funded school to…

    Some folks resent the idea of the taxpayer paying for buses for private schools but it doesn’t bother them at all apparently that our public school systems prefer to spend taxpayer money on non-education extra-curricula programs INSTEAD of on efforts to improve their SOLS.

    It costs in excess of 8K a year to educate a kid.

    Check your own property tax bill and report back how much of that 8K you are paying.

    I’m not opposed to the money for education.

    I’m opposed to it being squandered while at the same time our achievement levels and job competitiveness of our graduates is the worst among the industrialized countries.

    It would seem to me… that no matter what your political stripe – from right-winger to flaming liberal.. that you’d want better for our kids .. and realize that more money alone is never the answer.

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 11:56, In what sense have parents of children in private school “abandoned public schools.” Certainly not in the sense of helping paying for them. I send my children to private school, which means I pay to educate my children *and* someone else’s — at considerable personal sacrifice, I might add.

    Your observation about private schools was most revealing: “most of [them] are religious schools today supported by the far right wing who want to destroy the public school systems.”

    You live in a malign fantasy world, my friend. I don’t know *anyone* who wants to “destroy” the public schools. Many people have fled the public schools, yes, but only out of the conviction that public schools fail to create the kind of environment where they want their children to be educated and support the kind of values they want their children to have.

    Given your support of public schools, I find it remarkable that you oppose a measure that would be implemented only if it saved them money. Evidently, your animosity towards private schools exceeds your fondness for public schools, for you would prefer to punish the one than do something that benefited the other.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    ….many private schools are founded by religious groups who
    want their children educated with
    others of their social and religious beliefs …. I not have
    animosity towards private schools … but they are what they
    are havens for the rich, the narrow
    minded who want their children
    educated in a bubble …therefore
    removing students from public schools that could make a great
    contribution to their success along
    with the support their parents could offer them…

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    … would appear that Jim Bacon
    should have disclosed in this item
    when it was posted he has a child in a private school …. thus he is using
    this blog to promote a change in
    public policy that would benefit his child’s school … this can’t be the same Jim Bacon who attacks
    government spending, taxes and the
    like ….

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