Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Busing highlights need for prioritizing

The Oklahoma Senate is considering a bill that would allow school districts to sell ads on the exterior of school buses, though certain kinds of ads -- gambling, for instance -- would not be permitted. Does this mean that ads for Oklahoma's education lottery would be prohibited? (Umm, let's raise money for education, but not by promoting gambling -- even though we already use gambling to raise money for education.)

Moral confusion aside, let us consider a more fundamental question. As the state's largest newspaper asked yesterday in an excellent editorial, why are public schools even in the busing business?
We’ve made the argument before -- the Oklahoma Constitution requires the state to provide children an education, but says nothing about providing them transportation to and from school. Even so, this practice has continued for generations.
Three years ago, when diesel fuel climbed above $4 per gallon, some districts revisited their busing policies. We’re not aware of any that decided to drop busing altogether, even though doing so would have meant significantly more money for their classrooms. How much? Consider that transportation costs are north of $175 million statewide.
As Dr. Greg Forster pointed out last month in an article on bureaucratic bloat -- Oklahoma has nearly as many non-teachers as teachers! -- "there's absolutely no reason for any sector of government to directly employ bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, or any of the rest of this category. The whole enchilada needs to be privatized posthaste."

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