New bus policy leaves Washburn hoofing it
- Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
- April 25, 2012 - 11:03 AM
That’s because the new district bus pass policy is going to hit Minneapolis high schools differently.
At Washburn, for example, 53.4 percent of next year’s projected student body will need to find their own way to school because those students will be ineligible for district transportation. That’s considerably higher than the district average of 35.4 percent, and a considerable amount higher than the next closest high school, Roosevelt, with almost 39 percent ineligible.
District practice has been to bus students living outside a two-mile radius around a school, and those students will get bus passes under the district’s planned two-year transition away from yellow buses for high school students. But students living within the “walk” zone who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch also will get passes. That leaves only students from families with middle class or higher incomes as the only group needing to get to school by walking, driving, biking, skateboarding or paying for their own passes.
That raises equity issues, suggested school board member Carla Bates, who urged administrators to think about giving passes to all high school students. But that could throw into red ink the break-even economics of the switch from busing students to giving them passes. Another possibility is that students not eligible for district-paid passes could buy them at the 41 percent discounted rate the district has negotiated with Metro Transit.
Washburn’s high non-bus percentage appears to stem from two factors. First, only one-third of its student body lives outside the walk zone, lowest among city schools. Plus, it also ranks low for the share of its students inside that zone who are eligible for school lunch, reflecting the area’s higher socioeconomics. In contrast, Southwest, which would seem to have similar demographics, will see only 35 percent of its students not get bus passes. That’s because almost two-thirds of its enrollment comes from outside its walk zone. That offsets having only 2 percent of its students living inside that zone eligible for subsidized lunch, the lowest of any city high school.
No school board member called attention to the differential, which has to be teased out from the district’s presentation.
The ah-ha moment of the presentation came when Courtney Cushing Kiernat, the district’s lead work on the bus pass switch, recalled a bit of pushback during a student presentation. “One of the students asked, ‘How many of you walk two miles to get to work?’”
The only board member who could have answered that question satisfactorily is Bates. She walks a little over two miles most days from her Seward neighborhood home to her job on the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus, except when there’s lightning. Some days she walks another couple of miles to the district’s Broadway St. headquarters; others she pedals one of the Nice Ride bikes available at the university and at Logan Park by the district headquarters.
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