OPINION: Making School Transportation Work in New Orleans
Recent research by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, released in partnership with the Urban Institute, examined student commutes in New Orleans, illuminating just how significant the challenges are. BE NOLA’s Executive Director, Adrinda Kelly, discusses the research and highlights some ways to make sure the new transportation policy doesn’t place an undue burden on families and schools.
The Orleans Parish School Board should create a common-sense school transportation policy that responds to these issues. Setting parameters around pickup times, trip lengths, and pickup locations is a start. Implementing this guidance would be easier if the district looked at the way school schedules are set and advanced a sustainable, equity-focused funding solution to help schools pay for transportation. The district should gather insights and ideas from a broad range of school and parent stakeholders and work with local intermediaries on a funding approach that removes the financial burden on standalone schools and small networks and rewards coordination. (For example, could the district return a percentage of its administrative fee to a fund used to help schools offset transportation costs? Could the charter renewal process incentivize schools that share transportation services?)
Focusing on ways to improve school transportation is a step in the right direction—this is a solvable problem! However, there are broader questions that should not be ignored. Setting a transportation policy that advances students' safety and wellness is a great thing, but holding schools to this standard without offering supportive structures to address logistical and financial challenges may end up worsening outcomes for kids.
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