The school bus has a more profound impact on education than most realise. In the U.S., more than 25 million children or over 55% of students, climb aboard school buses each day. However, in many places, a lot of transportation has been cut over the last 10 years. What this means is that even though citywide school choice is available in many U.S. cities, many schools are in reality accessible only to those who live within walking distance or whose parents have the time and money to drive.
This has created a phenomenon that some refer to as the “geographic opportunity gap” where “good” schools tend to be located in higher-income areas and low-income students generally have further to go and less capacity to get there.
The transportation dilemma is made even more complex as a large chunk of school buses are contracted out to national and international companies. Hence it is difficult to regulate bus timings and routes to accommodate students who may need to travel further to reach their schools.
In fact, it is not uncommon for rural and urban children to spend more than two hours a day on the bus while their counterparts who can walk or be chauffeured to school attend cocurricular classes or SAT prep classes. Unpredictable and tardy bus timings also mean that it is not uncommon for low-income students to arrive more than 25 minutes late to their classes which also impacts their classmates who have to wait and distracts teachers from their lesson plans. All of this has widened the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers.
Thus, many are calling for transportation reform and technology is beginning to answer, with a Google-backed initiative putting WiFi on school buses and a host of new start-ups focused on replacing traditional yellow school buses with more flexible ridesharing solutions.
In my opinion, a good transport system is one that should not be taken for granted. Time is of the essence to many opportunities, and this article illustrates how something as intrinsic as transportation has a tremendous impact on education. It is perhaps something we can remind our own students about when they gripe about distance and their schools or tuition lessons.
If you want to find out more about how transportation impacts education, click the following link: