Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Here's an Idea

Something's broken with the buses. The Globe notes that most of the buses in Boston's system fill less than a quarter of the bus, some as low as one or two students. Why drop or dramatically alter the busing scheme and spend half the $79 million (9% of the city's budget) on private tutors at schools that aren't performing up to par, increasing school days if need be? $40 million buys a lot of private, highly qualified tutors.

Considering some of these buses are shipping next to no students halfway across the city, that sounds like a way better way to both make sure kids are getting a quality education and making sure the city is spending money efficiently. Otherwise, there's layoffs and everyone loses, including those getting bused, as the bus system suddenly takes up 10-15% of the school budget because of the cuts.

I honestly doubt sending the kids across the city would dramatically improve the education they receive; the very fact that these kids are willing to go that far, and have parents willing to go through that extra mile, suggests that they're generally good students already. 'Bad schools' are schools that just lose more students - students that can't or won't do homework or study because of home life or don't have the tools to learn what they didn't learn whilst in class (everyone has their own pace). Finding ways to get at them, teach them what they need, preferably during school hours, is the way to salvation at schools. That's not going to come from a bus. It's going to come from more hours in school, with guided study sessions that include personal tutoring if need be, so students are learning what they need, when they need it.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ryan,

This caught my eye --

"You have to make sure that something as sensitive as where children go to school doesn't become a political football, and we have failed miserably at that through the years."

Denying black children an equal education is how we got here. It was deliberate and blatant.
Louis Day Hicks anyone?
De-politicizing the process is how we get out.
Before we reshuffle buses, how about trying different sized buses first?
In the Commonwealth, politics needs to be removed from education, a more formidable task than shuffling buses.

Daniel said...

Did busing improve educational opportunities or outcomes for anybody at all? People of means started sending their kids to parochial schools and the racial balance of all public schools became more out of whack than it ever was before. Instead of explicit racial segregation we ended up with an equally rigid and insurmountable class segregation, with little or no benefit to African-American students.

Ryan said...

I think we need to look at new ways of doing things, Anon. I just don't think buses worked, not as a be-all solution, anyway. I'm not saying they don't have a place, but it is beyond apparent that people are not using this service and therefore we can't afford to spend 9% of the city's ed budget on that service. Smaller buses aren't the answer, either.

The solution, to me, should be in ensuring educational excellence everywhere. But when 9% of a city's budget is going to buses, that's hard to do. $40 million for private tutors and required longer hours for struggling students and struggling schools would go a long way. If that way isn't far enough, then the whole $79 million goes further. But throwing that $79 million at something that doesn't work and isn't used is bad policy all around.

Ryan said...

Bottom line: I think $79 million going to more tutors, teachers and longer hours in struggling schools and students will go far further than $79 million to more bus drivers and diesel.

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