End busing

Opinion: Editorials

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Also last week, the District 97 school board took up a consultant's report that raises the possibility, albeit (judging from the board discussion) faint, of eliminating the school bus program. Seems dramatic. Also dramatic, as we look at paying for a salary hike for teachers, is the more than $500,000 in potential cost savings in dropping the buses.

We'd note D97 has not always bused kids to and fro within this pretty small piece of real estate we call Oak Park. Busing came to pass in the 1970s after two neighborhood schools, then called Emerson and Hawthorn, were converted into junior highs. Now they are called middle schools and have been rechristened as Percy Julian and Gwendolyn Brooks.

School officials argue the buses aren't as needed as they had been in the past and that contracts with bus companies offer few ways to cut costs.

We gather the school board would like to avoid a notable parent backlash if this service is severely reduced or eliminated. We know that various options and timelines are likely to be discussed. 

We also know that avoiding/delaying a tax hike referendum is a priority even as a new teacher contract is being negotiated. Tough choices are necessary. And we'd prefer to give up a short bus ride to being threatened with the loss of music, art or some less ambitious contract with faculty. 

Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park   

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 4:13 PM

This is a red herring. Let's cut bussing, art, and music to get the parents riled up to defend their benefits. How come the discussion isn't about cutting the bloated administration? Oh, wait, they just hired 3 people.

Wesley MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 1:07 PM

A great community not only provides what is required of them, but it also provides services that set it apart from the rest. It's a mistake to get rid of bus service for our kids. It lessens us, and we are better than that.

Regina Ripley  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 11:35 AM

Editorialist - please identify yourself. Many of us would like to know the name of the individual or the individuals that wrote this ridiculous piece. This piece fails to understand the effects of middle school redisricting - segregation and the intent behind the original boundaries -- integration. This piece fails to compute the costs to the elementary school families who would have to miss work or hire sitters/drivers to get their kids to and from school. It fails to reflect on the increased traffic and the increased danger, therefore, to kids walking longer distances. This editorial does not reflect this community.

Meredith Deddish Schacht  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 11:34 AM

This editorial is about as well thought-out as the report on which it is based. The consultant's report, which cost the tax payers $7,500, explained that the threshold for what is be hazardous for children to traverse is a street with no sidewalk and a speed limit of 45 mph or higher (see page 4 of the consultant's report). The consultant concluded that no street crossing should be a concern to the district so long as there are stop signs or traffic lights (see page 6 of consultant's report). And apparently Missoula, Montana is an early rising town, because the consultant also stated that rush hour is done by the time children will be walking to school, so there is no need to be concerned about high levels of traffic (see page 6 of consultant's report). Given the distance they will have to walk, their short legs, their easy distractibility, and a school start time of 7:55am, my kids would be walking in the heart of rush hour. The school district appears to be racing toward the minimum services required by state law, rather than determining what best serves the community. Fiscal responsibility is important, but it is not more important than safety. No decision should be made on the ridiculous report submitted to the board on March 13, and far more consideration is required to determine what is actually safe in Oak Park and what impact cutting busing would have on traffic, on timely arrival at school, on accidents all around the village but especially in school drop off zones, and on parents who do not have the flexibility or financial resources to find another safe way for their children to get to school.

Krissy Bee  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 10:36 AM

The fact that this is even up for debate demonstrates the tone deaf, poor deductive reasoning of the board. Perhaps they have forgotten that we had an abduction and assault of a female student at Brooks this year? Reducing the supports for children to and from school is thoughtless at best, dangerous at worst. Do we want first graders walking a mile and a half to school, or longer if they have to adjust for busy intersections? Do we want the next abduction to be an 8 year old who was previously bussed? What are you people even thinking? Perhaps we could save money by a) cutting some of the bloated administrative positions which have been added unnecessarily to deal with such a small school district b) stop purchasing exorbitantly-priced teaching plans and then not implementing them for years and/or c) stop giving kids the latest greatest tech rollout and instead make sure they can get to and from school safely in the first place. My family doesn't even use bussing and I know how stupid and myopic this proposal is.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 10:08 AM

This is absurd. Go over the list of the numerous highly compensated D97 administrators and their costly benefit packages and you'll find ample funds to cut without negatively impacting more than one thousand students and their parents.

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2018 9:50 AM

In its lazy and sloppy argumentation, this editorial rivals the traffic report itself. If you actually wade through that document, you will discover that its recommendations are thoroughly unacceptable (I like the bit about how schoolkids should be able to cross the freeway at Austin -- no problem!). And if these are the best alternatives the report's authors can come with, they have inadvertently demonstrated that there is no real option at the moment but to continue the busing program. So: the District paid out $7,500 to consultants who responded with nothing of any value in return. If Dan Haley were truly concerned with eliminating waste and holding down costs, he might well concentrate on that particular decision -- whose bright idea was it to bring in this firm from Missoula, Montana anyway?

Jeanine Pedersen  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 3:11 PM

One must assume from the idiocy of this editorial that the editorial board didn't actually read the report, nor does the editorial board seem to have any historical memory regarding the reasons for the district lines being what they are for the middle schools. I suggest that the editorial board and Village citizens actually read the report. And by the way the cost savings is half of what this editorial claims. https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=42133118

Michael Nevins  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 11:26 AM

@ BK. When one looks at the recent astronomical increase by D97 for administrators, etc - and they want to sharply increase the FTE's by even more - you'll understand why they are floating trial balloons regarding the minimizing of expenses for CAST/BRAVO and now busing. They're trying to say "we're frugal" but they are anything but. Speaking of "the middle of the night" stuff - what are they doing with the "oops, we ignorantly are getting $2.1M ,more from the referendum than we told you" money? People are fleeing OP and they think that the priority is spending more, more, more on things? Please take a deep breath, pause, and stop thinking that you can solve problems which are true from coast-to-coast.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 11:15 AM

I have a better idea. Are you interested in quick and easy way to raise money for the village? Then station police officers at the street crossings near elementary schools every morning, and have them fine the hell out of all the drivers who are turning while little kids are in the crosswalk, who are parking their SUVs on the sidewalks while their child is getting out, etc. The drivers do whatever they please, unless the crossing guard is actually present and staring them down. The busing at least gives parents confidence that their child will make it to school in one piece.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 11:03 AM

Nick: Before one cuts bus transportation which is essential for many kids and their families, D97 should cut their ludicrous, useless and ridiculous top heavy administration. And by the way, the likely editorialist is a resident of Berwyn who has not the foggiest idea of what residents of Oak Park need anyway.

Nick Polido  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 8:05 AM

I too had reasonable expectations when moving here twenty years ago that my taxes would be adjusted according to the services provided... now after all these years and referendums done in the middle of the night have raised our property taxes to the point of absurdity ....thinking of ways to reign in our outrageous budgets is far from tone deaf.

Kyle P. Eichenberger  

Posted: March 21st, 2018 7:11 AM

Dear "Editorial," this piece is so tone-deaf about the needs of our district's families, their safety, and home purchase, childcare, and other decisions that have been made based on the continued availability of busing to our students. But that's ok, perhaps the most tone-deaf of all is our district who would float this silly idea and even put it up for discussion. Shame on all of you.

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