How Boston schools could save $40 million
Busing students from one neighborhood to another does nothing to change the racial, cultural, and caste demographics of classrooms, while devouring financial resources that could be better spent on teaching and learning. That $40 million would better prepare students for success in college and would support arts, music, technology, and physical education instruction.
If Ted Landsmark says it's time to end busing, I'm going to listen.
But he can do better than putting up a strawman argument. More than anybody else, he should know that busing in Boston today is NOT race-based, since he chaired a task force a couple years back that tried (and failed completely) to come up with alternatives to the present zone system.
Our kid rides a bus not to comply with some Wellesley judge's conception of racial equality but because we felt the school we applied for in the assignment lottery was the best fit for her. Yes, it's an expensive and frustrating program (if you're not lucky, your kid gets assigned to some random school), and yes, it's amazing to stand with her at her stop and watch zillions of school buses going in zillions of directions (her stop's at a busy intersection), and yes, saving $40 million is an excellent idea.
But until Landsmark can prove to me that all schools in Boston provide equally good levels of education, I'm going to continue to think there's value in the present system.
Landsmark notes that a quarter of Boston's parents opt out of busing by sending their kids to charter, private or Metco schools. That means that 75% do not. By returning to a strictly neighborhood-school system, Landsmark will be condemning some of those parents and kids to underperforming schools with no chance of escape.
Now saving $40 million - especially in times like these - is most laudable. If, as Landsmark says, some bus routes haven't changed in 20 years and run half empty, maybe the school department needs to invest in some decent scheduling software to sort out the routes. If the goal is to save lots of money, that's fine, too, but let's not pretend that all kids will get the same level of education.