By Lesley Green-Rennis
- Black students face longer rides to school, in terms of time and miles, than white students
- Private companies account for roughly 40% of the school bus industry that’s valued at $13.5B
As COVID-19 continues to rip through American cities, school bus companies are being left behind. The majority of U.S. public school children are Black and hispanic, with many of them transported to and from school via private bus companies. These companies account for roughly 40% of the school bus industry and carry nearly 10 million children to school each year. Will these students experience disproportionate learning losses with more obstacles to school attendance, due to school buses not operating, leading to long-term impacts on their academic and economic well-being?
Why This Matters: As schools continued remote learning, buses sat idle for months, leading to furloughs and layoffs. Even in places where in-person school has resumed, bus companies remain at risk. Some districts are forgoing payments altogether, in others, companies have been crushed under increased cleaning costs and operational overhead expenses needed to ensure students remain socially distanced. Bus companies are going under fast while teachers, administrators, and parents fight to keep learning alive. This further impacts Black students who face longer rides to school, in terms of time and miles, than white students, according to the Urban Institute.
School bus fleets are more than twice the size of all other forms of mass transit combined
To address the impending transportation crisis, Congress earmarked $50 billion for airlines, $25 billion for public transit and $1 billion for Amtrak. Yet, privately owned school buses were left to fend for themselves. School bus fleets are more than twice the size of all other forms of mass transit combined, and federal lawmakers seem to be oblivious to just how much school children depend on this mode of transportation.
Situational Awareness: Experts said the industry could be affected forever. Although federal lawmakers gave school districts $13.5 billion in aid, they left it up to district administrators to decide whether to pay their private contractors, including school buses. However, this is not the time to make school transportation funding optional.
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