Charles Marohn, a transportation engineer who gets it, writes at the New Urban Network about the high costs of busing kids to school:
If I am reading the budget right, we are going to spend $3.4 million in transportation costs this year. That seems in line with the costs reported in the MN2020 report. With a starting teacher in the district making roughly $41,000 in salary and benefits, we could add over 80 new teachers right now if we stopped subsidizing busing. That would be a 20 percent increase in staffing, potentially a game-changing amount.
Here’s my proposal: What if we abolished the mandate that schools provide transportation to all students, but required them to still provide it to children that lived on farms (or whose families had careers that required them to live in a remote location)? For all other children, transportation would be provided as a fee-for-service offering. We then subsidize children from poor families (many of whom live close to the old schools anyway).
Besides the fact that it is nearly politically impossible to get people to pay for something they have been receiving for free, what are the objections?
It makes no sense that we continue to abandon neighborhood schools in favor of these remote campuses that require every child to be bused to. The only reason this continues to happen is that we’ve made transportation a sunk cost — it has to happen anyway — and so the cheapest way to do it is to make it large-scale. In the meantime, the transportation mandate is simply another perverse incentive for people to make lifestyle choices that ultimately have huge, financial costs to society.
At the link, he also discusses the design of the school and the area immediately around it. It’s on a highway (or something close to it). No child could walk to it if they wanted and if some parent actually did allow such action, they would immediately get a call from protective services. Likely from somebody on a cellphone driving down said highway before they sideswipe another car because they failed to use a blinker while talking on said phone.
The budget Chuck mentioned above is for one (1) school district. We’re about to cut teachers left and right, most disconcerting, in positions where they’re needed the most such as special education. What is next? Why even have schools? Wouldn’t that be cheaper? Isn’t that the defining goal? Just rent some space from giant auditoriums and concert halls and have the one teacher left (the youngest, cheapest, and most inexperienced of course), lecture on all subjects to 1,000 kids at a time.
Or maybe, smaller, more localized schools was actually a better way of caring for and preparing children to be prosperous contributors to society.
Source: Walkable DFW - Restoring a City to Walkability, Feb 9, 2011
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