THE CONTROVERSY OF BUSING
Contributor: Melanie Weaver
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In Louisville, Kentucky a new bill was filed that would require students attend their neighborhood schools. “This method has not worked. It’s not working and it’s time for a change,” State Representative (R) Kevin Bratcher said.Bratcher wants to put the brakes on the JCPS (Jefferson County Public School District) district’s and any other school district’s cross-county busing.
As a high school civics teacher, I teach my students about civil rights. The goal is to help students understand the importance of becoming contributing, participating and informed citizens. My mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and discrimination to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.
I do this through the study of government and the case study, Choices in Little Rock. The curriculum covers important content such as segregation, Brown v. Board, voting rights and the Little Rock 9.
For our project-based learning assignment, my civics class wrote letters to Dear JCPS, sharing their personal opinions on busing in Louisville. Their stances were based on what they’ve learned about the history of desegregation, the pros, and cons of busing and current events that could impact the student assignments within JCPS. The students took a look at the proposed legislation and how it would directly affect them, their peers and their community.
I knew busing had always been a controversial topic in Louisville. However, I did not realize just how serious this subject was until people started posting their comments on my students’ work. Understanding the seriousness of busing made me reevaluate the pros and cons of busing. I wanted to understand better why so many parents are concerned.
A major complaint was the long bus rides to and from schools. Parents feel they are being forced to send their kids far away from home to receive a good education. Busing makes it difficult for students to be involved in after-school activities. Also, parents often cannot participate in school functions due to distance, especially those parents who do not have adequate transportation.
Some argue that Louisville neighborhoods are diverse enough that desegregation is not necessary. And unfortunately, you have some people who don’t want kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds to go into their upscale schools and neighborhoods for fear they will misbehave and reduce test scores.
Some argue these students will not get along with the wealthier kids, which could lead to altercations. Parents do not want their children bused to schools in poverty-stricken areas. Many have also argued that busing is too costly for our school district.
On the flip side, many parents and community members support busing because it helps eliminate racism by desegregating the student population. Because many Louisville neighborhoods are segregated based on race and socioeconomics, ending busing would recreate predominately all-white and all-black schools. Busing gives students the opportunities to be with other students who are unlike them and gives them the chance to learn from one another’s cultures.
Many parents argue that busing allows students to attend schools that offer better programs and extracurricular activities. Because children of higher economic status tend to receive better opportunities, busing can help diminish many of these disparities to create an equal society.
The goal is to maintain racial and economic diversity and to ensure a higher quality education for all students. Data also shows that in many school districts, busing accounts for a small percentage of operating costs; therefore it’s an affordable way to achieve integration in our schools.
Personally, I am torn on the topic of busing because I understand both sides of the argument. As a teacher, I encourage my students to always analyze all perspectives. As a mother of two, I want my boys to receive the best education possible.
When my first son enrolled in kindergarten, I researched all the schools in his cluster. I had many questions about the schools’ diversity, test scores, technology, student/teacher ratio, free and reduced lunch rate, extracurricular activities and school culture. In the end, I decided to enroll my son in a school that is a 45-minute bus ride away, rather than the school across the street from my neighborhood. Since my husband and I have the means to participate in his school, it was the best choice for our family. I was glad we were given a choice.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to busing, opinions and decisions depend on what is right for the parents and their children’s educational needs.
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