Today’s Washington Post has a story on the Supreme Court decision that has led to a busing mess in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The 2007 decision prohibited officials from considering race when assigning children to schools. In an effort to do an end-run around the Court’s decision, Louisville decided to promote diversity by considering socioeconomic factors rather than race. The result has been a complicated and sometimes irrational busing system.
The Post story has this anecdote, one that we Louisvillians hear all too often:
“Belinda Abernethy is one [angry parent]. Her 5-year-old boy was assigned to a kindergarten six miles from their home. He would have passed an elementary school less than a mile away just to get to the bus stop. He faced a one-hour bus trip from there, and Abernethy decided to teach him at home rather than put him on the bus.
“She said school officials told her they couldn’t build a classroom at a school of her choice ‘for one little boy,’ but they designed a bus route just for him.”
This is a story that I have heard time and again. Parents are doing everything they can to avoid long (and sometimes precarious) bus rides. Those who can afford it are sending their kids to private schools; others are choosing home school. But the forced busing is causing many folks simply to opt out of public schools.
My biggest issue with the city’s “school assignment” program is that there are safety concerns when you put small children on extended bus rides. Every year we read news reports about children who miss their stop and are unaccounted for for hours while their parents frantically try to find them (read here). I have a colleague whose grandchild recently missed his stop and was missing for hours. Also, more time on the bus means more time for bad behavior. Just last week, a 5-year old girl was sexually assaulted on a public school bus here in Louisville (read here).
As you can see, I’m not a big fan of our fair city’s “school assignment” program, and I’m not alone. The safety of children should be paramount in any “school assignment” plan, and long bus rides don’t achieve that in my view.
Read the rest of the story here.