Education Law

School Busing in the News? Again?

  • In 2010, decades after school desegregation, discrimination claims in school busing have cropped up in North Carolina
  • From Michigan to California, cities and towns struggle with paying for school bus services
  • Be active in your schools and communities to help our children get the educations they need and deserve


It's 2010 and believe it or not, school busing is in the news, showing that a decades-old problem is still a problem, as well as how slow the US economic recovery really is.

North Carolina

In 1954, in a case named Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court ordered desegregation of the nation's public schools. The days of "white only" and "black only" schools were over. Although school busing was happening before the decision, busing is often associated with Brown because it's a chief means of desegregation: Minority students to "white schools" and white students to "minority schools."

In July 2010, 19 protesters were arrested at a meeting of the Wake County School Board in North Carolina. The protesters were challenging the Board's recent decision to end its "forced busing" program - which was designed to promote diversity in the public schools by busing students based upon socioeconomic factors.

Under the new "community schools" plan adopted by the Board, students will be assigned to schools within their own communities. The school district will be divided into zones.

Critics argue the plan will "resegregate" the district's schools by leaving minority students in poor-performing schools and white students in better schools.

Parents in favor of the plan like the idea of no more long bus rides or commutes. School officials argue the old plan wasn't working. Specifically, they claim minority students weren't achieving the same academic success as white students under the old system.

Money Talks

Meanwhile, the stark reality of a bleak economy hits school busing, too. Cities and towns are struggling with their budgets, and school busing seems to be a favorite target for cost-savings. For instance:

  • In Idaho, a school district plans drastic changes in the busing system for the 2010-2011 school year. Bus routes will be changed and some eliminated, meaning many students won't be able to ride a bus at all or will have a longer walk to the nearest bus stop
  • School bus service in one California school district faces elimination unless the vast majority of parents agree to pay $575 for bus passes, up from $400 for the 2009-2010 school year. The deadline was set for early August, but no decision has been reported as of August 4
  • In Michigan, a school district voted to hire a private company to run its bus service rather than running it itself - maintaining buses and a garage, as well as paying drivers and other workers. The district faced eliminating or reducing bus service because of its budget deficit

As the effects of the recession linger and economic recovery comes painstakingly slow, it's a good bet that more cities and towns will make similar decisions when budgets and busing needs collide.

What You Can Do

Be active in your schools and communities. If you have children in your local public schools, or even if you're taxpayer, school busing impacts you. Attend the next school board meeting and ask the members about their plans for busing. If you work together you may be able to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

If your school has reduced or eliminated bus service, talk to other parents in the neighborhood and come up with a carpool.

If you face problems like those in North Carolina, urge your local leaders to re-think their plans to make sure it's the right decision for the students. If busing changes have a negative impact on your child's education, consider moving her to another school. If you and she are willing to make the extra effort, you may be able to enroll her in another public school, or maybe a charter or magnet school. Talk with other parents and see if a carpool can be arranged.

In almost any case there are options. If parents and school officials work together and remember our children are what's important, we can make sure they get the quality education they need and deserve.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Doesn't the law require public school districts to provide free bus service?
  • If busing is eliminated, can I take a tax deduction for driving my and some neighborhood children to and from school each day?
  • Do I need a special license or permit if I want to run a private busing service? 
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