District 97 and busing

Opinion: Editorials

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The District 97 Oak Park elementary school board did two smart things at its last meeting. It agreed to extend its current formula for busing elementary and middle school students for another year and it decided to more rigorously evaluate its options for cutting back on the cost of busing in the future.

The board and administration acknowledged it had missed any possible window for notable changes to the costly busing program for the fall and so opted for the one-year extension. It also recognized that it had opened something of a hornet's nest in even raising the possibility of cutbacks or elimination of the program. That's why the board wisely chose to involve the community more in a study process over the next months.

In a village rightly howling about its tax bills and the primary role of the elementary and high school in fueling those taxes, it is past time that D97 turned an eye to the busing program. These underutilized buses cost a lot of money, more than $500,000 annually, and we see no sign that those costs have been thoroughly considered in the 40-plus years since busing was added, as school boundaries were redrawn with the creation of two middle schools.

As the new committee on busing begins its efforts, it will need to sort out the necessity for busing kids, particularly elementary students who are often quite close to their school. There are odd exceptions, based on boundaries and potential traffic hazards but, according to the work of a consultant hired by the district, no elementary student qualifies for bus service based on exceeding a 1.5-mile trip to school. There are middle school students who would have a longer walk than that and busing might be necessary. We'd be open to shifting middle school start times to allow double use of buses. We're not open to redrawing boundaries to reduce busing costs as those boundaries are critical to maintaining racial balance in those schools.

With so many families working so many hours and earning double incomes, we think the committee will also find many parents of school kids who rely on the school bus to make complicated schedules come close to working. That's real and will need to be considered.

We applaud D97 for both pausing and for moving ahead in looking at school busing.

Reader Comments

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Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2018 11:06 AM

Now it is a smart decision to make a dumb decision and then decide not to move forward on it. Here is to not shooting yourself in the foot guys.

Mak Flournoy from Oak Park  

Posted: April 19th, 2018 12:55 PM

The district isn't the only village entity that spends money. Has the collective "we" referred to in this OpEd thought about the cost that it would take to increase policing and traffic guards to support the increase in the number of little feet on the street? Has this "we" considered the overall net impact, which as a taxpayer, is the burden for me? Have "we" considered what it means to be an urban village and how the wrong decision might impact low income families that we profess as a Village is a marker of success in our diversity? My take; Get creative, "we", there may be some families that may be willing to "buy into bussing" which could fill the so called empty busses and offset the burden. Get smart, "we", pick up the phone and contact the Village and ask them to join you in your efforts to consider alternatives and net impact. Use iGov as it was originally conceived. Be close and clear, "we", to some of the realities that Oak Park families have to face on a day to day basis and use those realities to help inform your considerations. Speak clearly and often, "we" so that families aren't caught off guard by decisions that are ultimately made. And finally, for everyone else...get connected to what's happening in OP education and have as much passion about other extremely important issues within our ed system as you do bussing.

Jennifer Malloy Quinlan  

Posted: April 17th, 2018 11:31 PM

Who are the "we" you are referring to? A $500,000 hill is an interesting one to die on. Where were you during all the curriculum purchases? Or the classroom furniture? What have you to say about the 26 administrators at the district level, plus the dozen principals (and assistants). Really. This is your hill?

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