Time for McKinney ISD to listen to parents on busing
Dallas Morning News, The (TX) – May 11, 2008
Author: ED HOUSEWRIGHT, firstname.lastname@example.org
McKinney school officials should stop talking and start listening.
Trustees and Superintendent Tom Crowe need to quit defending the district’s divisive busing plan and listen to the chorus of parents who despise it.
The administration recently blew a perfect opportunity to ditch busing, a concept as outdated as disco.
The district plans to open a new middle school next fall, its fifth. Instead of returning to neighborhood schools, trustees adopted a new gerrymandered busing map to accommodate the campus. They chose to perpetuate a problem instead of carrying out the will of people who elected them.
Parents like Lisa Falvo are furious, with good reason. She and her husband live in west McKinney. Their 11-year-old son, Sebastian, rode a bus to east McKinney to attend Faubion Middle School.
He did, that is, until February when his mom grew tired of getting him to the bus stop by 6:30 a.m. Now she or her husband drives Sebastian down busy Virginia Parkway and across Central Expressway to take him to a school they didn’t choose.
But that’s the McKinney way. The school district began busing middle school students in 1995 and has stubbornly clung to the ill-advised idea.
Apparently no other Texas district buses kids to achieve socioeconomic balance – that is, poor kids and rich kids attending school together. It’s a noble idea to try to break down class and racial barriers. But McKinney is conducting a social experiment no one can prove works.
Its students do well on standardized tests, but they might do just as well if they could attend class close to home.
McKinney isn’t the only Collin County school district with an east-west economic divide. Plano and Allen also have more poor kids east of Central Expressway than west of it.
Plano and Allen officials have found a way to achieve economic excellence without mandating unnecessary, inconvenient bus rides.
McKinney, on its own, hasn’t discovered the answer to better education and class harmony with busing. Trustees and the superintendent simply won’t open their eyes and realize it’s time for a change.
In 1995, when busing began, McKinney had 7,000 students. Now it has 22,000 students. School officials spend an extra $480,000 a year in busing for “student redistribution,” as they call it.
The district makes several weak arguments in favor of keeping busing. It says many parents like the status quo. If so, they aren’t speaking up.
The district says teachers don’t want to work in schools with many low-income, underperforming kids. Lastly, the district says it would have to hire more teachers if kids attended neighborhood schools. So hire them.
Just don’t ignore the wishes of parents. They’re the customers, and they have valid arguments against busing. But school officials aren’t listening.
“I think it’s something we’ll continue to evaluate,” school spokesman Cody Cunningham told me. “But we don’t want to take an entirely different direction until we’ve been able to determine the impact that would have.”
In other words, busing will continue.
This is the message parents hear: We’re the education experts, and we know what’s best for your kids.
Ed Housewright writes about Collin County issues. His column runs every other Sunday.