Thursday, December 12, 2019
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Busing woes in Md., acquisitions in IL

Busing issues, and some solutions, have been in the news as the 2019-20 school year started in Maryland and Illinois.

Baltimore County Public Schools has been trying to recruit bus drivers to alleviate a shortage of drivers that has seen students squatting in the aisles on their way to school, while a redistricting plan in neighboring Howard County, aimed at advancing the mission of diversity, has been met with protests and strong opposition.

Meanwhile, the First Student transportation company, based in Cincinnati, announced the signing of an agreement to acquire Hopewell Transportation last week. Hopewell is a specialist in the transportation of special needs students in the Chicagoland area.

“Traditional transportation models are not one-size-fits-all, and Hopewell has advanced a service that meets the unique requirements of the special needs population,” said First Student President Paul Osland in a press release.

“As the largest provider of special education transportation services in North America, this is a logical step for us. Through this partnership, we intend to grow as well as learn about the special care the Hopewell team puts into transporting our most vulnerable population. We will continue to search for opportunities where we can leverage our expertise to benefit school districts, students and families.”

Howard County redistricting

Voxitatis reported a few years back about unrest over racial issues in Howard County, which is situated almost midway between Baltimore and Washington. Then-Superintendent Renee Foose left her position amid scandals that included an inability to run an effective school board and school system. The man who took over, Michael Martirano, released a plan in August that he hoped would increase “economic” diversity in the county’s 77 school buildings.

But as with many busing changes, the redistricting has resulted in an effective desegregation of students based, effectively, on race, even though the stated intention of the plan was to increase “economic” diversity. If redistricting is based in fact on race, that change would run afoul of Supreme Court decisions that prevent the use of race alone as a criterion for segregation. But an effective basis on race causes some angry parent groups and students.

More than 7,000 students had to change schools, out of about 58,000 in the district, when the change was made for the current school year.

The most active protests are centered on River Hill High School, based in a more affluent community than most of the rest of the county, where very few black or Hispanic students are enrolled. Signs calling for an end to “forced busing” and the “dismantling of communities” can be seen regularly in protests outside the high school.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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