In Glendale, district officials have discussed charging $2 per
day to students who take the bus to Clark Magnet High School in La
Crescenta. The school -- which as a magnet school pulls in students
from all over the district, as it's meant to do -- has about
two-thirds of its 1,050 students taking 15 different buses to get to
Clark. That's a big expense, about $682,000 annually, that the
district says could be substantially offset by charging the students
a small fee each day.
Clark was established with the idea that students who merited its
extra attention on math, technology and physical sciences could
attend a school tailored to their skills and interests, regardless of
economic and/or social status. Charging a fee to get to the school
dramatically changes that idea, even if $10 per week doesn't sound
like a lot of money. The truth is that it IS a lot of money for some
kids, and if they have to spend it simply getting to and from school,
they'll make other choices, and not end up at the school where they
belong. Meanwhile, those to whom $10 is chump change will continue to
attend Clark, or will find other ways to get there that are not
available to poorer students.
The problem is even more egregious in the La Canada Unified School
District, where the school board is seriously considering altogether
eliminating bus service to students in the Angeles National Forest,
even if one or both of two school financing measures is approved by
voters next month.
Nineteen students living as far away as Chilao, about 30 miles
north of the city, would have to rely on parents or other means to
get to school if the board eliminates busing for them. The area is
served by LCUSD, which has provided busing since 1981, when the
district closed the community school in Chilao.
Citing the bus service's $48,000 annual cost -- roughly equivalent
to the salary of a teacher -- board members said they favored cutting
bus service before eliminating personnel or making class sizes
bigger, moves that also would save money.
"We recognize you as part of our community, but at the end of the
day, we need to educate kids," board member Cindy Wilcox said.
That statement is disingenuous on its face -- you don't tell 19
students they belong while at the same time telling them they no
longer have the means to get where they belong -- and it also
highlights the main point district officials in Glendale and La
Canada Flintridge are missing: What's more basic to "educating kids"
than getting them to school in the first place?
Be it charging a small fee or eliminating service altogether, the
busing proposals put forth in the Glendale and La Canada Flintridge
school districts unfairly penalize students and families of lesser
means or remote geography. That's hardly fair, given that the
students are required by law to be at school. The least they can
expect is some help getting there.
It's a given that school districts have to make some painful cuts
in the next year to make the books balance. But hacking away at bus
service is entirely the wrong way to go about it.