Seeking a Seat at the Table of Educational Equity


Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the need for a bipartisan commission to address civil rights reform in the nation’s schools. The issue is that of educational equality, or inequality, depending upon your viewpoint and how the Race to the Top program and other similar programs are aiming to give impoverished students better opportunities.

A notice is expected any day now on the Federal Register that will seek nominations for the Equity and Excellence Commission. It would behoove the American School Bus Council and the pupil transportation industry to seek representation.

We keep talking about the need for federal funds to assist in transportation services, and in this economy with a more than 40 percent spike in the number of homeless students from 2006 through 2009, there is no better time for it. Especially when you consider that another 40 percent of school districts are expected to make further cuts to transportation or eliminate the service altogether during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the American Association of School Administrators.

Duncan is promising $14 billion in the federal Title I program goes toward advancing school equity by hiring more teachers and providing “other vital resources for students who need them most,” according to an Education Department statement on July 28. Read into this any way you’d like, but to me I see the door cracked open albeit slightly to the possibility that the industry could successfully pitch to lawmakers the importance of school buses in getting high-risk students to class.

Drop-out rates are skyrocketing, especially for black, Afro-American, Hispanic and Latino students. One of the biggest reasons? No dedicated, reliable, consistent way to and from school.

Even if unsuccessful at getting federal money, which unfortunately is likely, the industry can go a long ways in expanding its brand of yellow to the forefront of public policy concerns by being a leading advocate for homeless students, students with all ranges of disabilities and impoverished students.

It will be interesting to hear any discussion on this at the ASBC Summit next week in Chicago.