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Charter School Transportation Is a Thorny Problem

At this week’s State Board of Education meeting the usually mundane topic of transportation was addressed, revealing some serious issues relating to transportation at charter schools.  Under North Carolina law, charter schools are exempt from statutes and rules applicable to traditional public schools.  The purpose of this law is to allow for innovation and to let charters to circumvent teaching licensing standards.  Oddly, this law also exempts charters from the school bus safety regulations that are followed by public schools.

Derek Graham, chief of the Department of Public Instructions Transportation Division, stated that currently only 40 of 98 (41%) of charter schools provide transportation for their students even though they do receive funds for transportation.   This causes students who cannot provide for their own transportation to be excluded from these schools and contributes to the higher levels of segregation found in North Carolina charter schools.   Mr. Graham was concerned that if charter school buses were held to the same standards as public school buses, the few charters that do provide transportation will stop because most of the buses they use are retired public school buses that no longer make the grade.

However, as Chairman of the State Board of Education William Harrison rightfully pointed out, student safety comes first and there is really no way to get around that.  Most of the regulations that have been enacted were in response to accidents and incidents involving buses in the past that nobody wants to see repeated.  The Board now faces a no-win situation and must decide whether they should effectively decrease the already minimal level of transportation services at charter schools or push student safety by the wayside.

2 Comments

  1. […] and contributes to the higher levels of segregation found in North Carolina charter schools.  Read entire article… « News 14: Alpha Academy, Alliance & “fast […]

  2. Ben Wright

    September 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Lots of organizations than just charter schools use school buses which have been school system retired. A fair picture of the issue would require pulling accident data for these retired buses in service and determining the number of retired buses being used. Why are our school systems also transportation systems. This smells of traditional public school backers wanting to gain more control over charter schools/ limit their effectiveness. Our state doesn’t even require seat belts on school buses. At least one organization which I’ve worked with in the past required their buses to have a second adult aboard to handle behavior. A well behaved bus allows the driver to concentrate, a poorly behaved bus not only increases the likelihood of accidents but also contributes to behavior issues at school. The state should do likewise if they are truly concerned.

    A poorly funded, poorly performing school, is that regardless of the demographics. 100% close the achievement gap and segregation in schools will be a non-issue within two generations. Fail to close it 100% and it will always be an issue.