SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The potential impact of school reform on pupil transportation was the subject of a timely speech by Linda Bluth at the recent School Bus eXchange (SBX).
Bluth, a special-needs transportation expert and past NAPT president, was the keynote speaker at the 2017 SBX event, which was held April 3 to 5 in Scottsdale.
In her presentation — titled “Is the school bus industry idling while education reform is on the move?” — Bluth discussed the policies of new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who is a proponent of school choice, charter schools, and vouchers to enable students to attend private schools with public funding.
Bluth noted that transportation has been found to be a barrier to school choice — for example, charter and magnet schools often don’t provide school bus service. If more parents choose to send their children to those types of nontraditional schools, one of the side effects could be that fewer students will ride school buses.
While there is still much uncertainty on the practical effects of DeVos’ policies on pupil transportation, Bluth exhorted SBX attendees — and the industry in general — to find ways to contribute their expertise to the school reform efforts.
“Safe transportation must be a part of the agenda with respect to schoolchildren under school reform,” Bluth said, adding that the pupil transportation community “cannot afford to take a position of waiting to see.”
Bluth suggested that the industry consider developing a unified position on the school reform topic. She noted that there was a lack of pupil transportation input in a recent joint letter that 40 groups — including the National PTA and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education — sent to a Senate committee with “numerous questions regarding [DeVos’] views on policies that impact students with disabilities.” (Read the letter here.)
“I can only stress how important it is for us to be proactive,” Bluth told the SBX audience. “This is the time to impact the secretary’s knowledge about transportation positively.”
Bluth also moderated a roundtable in which attendees conferred on the school reform issues that she presented in her keynote speech. Some roundtable participants expressed concerns about a potential decrease in the number of school buses they operate, as well as the possibility of having to transport some students farther.
When asked what they will do “to get your voices heard,” ideas included bringing concerns to the attention of the school board, the district superintendent, and the state superintendent.