What Do Bus Rides Tell Us About School Choice?
Last Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Education hosted a marathon hearing exclusively on the inter-district school transfer law. Over the course of the five hour long hearing, numerous witnesses brought up the fact that some students in the two unaccredited school districts are riding buses for three hours a day in order to attend a school in Mehlville, Kirkwood, or Francis Howell. What conclusion did they draw from this fact? Most decided this was unassailable proof that the school transfer law was failing; that we need to shut it down immediately so these poor children can come back home. This is exactly the wrong conclusion to draw from this.
We must remember that students are riding buses for multiple hours each day by choice. These students want better educational opportunities. They are willing to ride the bus for hours each day to secure those opportunities. Some are even willing to ride their bicycle 30 miles to secure that opportunity.
The fact that students are riding the bus for so long is hardly a criticism of inter-district transfers or school choice. Rather, it is a testimony to the resolve of students and their families. Their sacrifice demonstrates that there is great demand for school choice.
I by no means believe the current transfer law is perfect. Something must be done to make the law more tenable, but fixing the problems should not mean we have to deprive students of the opportunities they so desire and deserve. Long bus rides are not the problem. The problem is a lack of educational options close to home. We can work towards solving that problem by expanding school choice, not by limiting choice.