School bus issue gets Barbara Lee’s attention

Last week, we reported that the Federal Transit Administration might impose a new rule that could make it illegal for public agencies, such as AC Transit, to offer special bus routes to schools. The move is apparently an attempt to help private, “yellow school bus” companies (which may or may not be interested in providing service in Oakland to begin with) remain competitive.

In response, Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office sent this release today:

(Washington D.C.) – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-09) on Monday, June 9, 2008 issued the following statement in response to a proposal by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that would ban public transit agencies from providing supplemental school transportation service for students who would otherwise be forced to find alternative means of transportation to school:

“I am concerned with the Federal Transit Administration’s proposed policy regarding school bus service, and its potential to negatively impact school children in my district,” Congresswoman Lee said.  “Instead of looking for ways to make it more difficult for kids to get to school, the FTA should be expanding transportation options for our students.

“I will be sharing my concerns directly with the Federal Transit Administration during the open public comment period, and I encourage those who will be negatively affected by this proposed policy to do the same.”

What do you make of this controversy, and how do you think such a change would affect Oakland families (and schools)? Anyone remember a time when the district provided yellow school bus service? If you’re wondering which schools have these special AC Transit routes, scroll to the bottom of the page on this Web site and check out the “schools” list.

Want to give the feds feedback on the proposal? You can submit a comment online at:  http://www.regulations.gov, or fax it to:  202-493-2251.  The proposal is listed under Docket No. FTA-2008-0015.

Tribune photo by Alex Molloy

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue

    Durham Transportation provides yellow school buses – and transportation for Spec. Ed. students.

    Older son was on those yellow, spec. ed. buses when he was very small, but there were problems, and he hasn’t ridden them in 7-8 years.

    We’ve considered having him ride AC Transit to school, but district staff have warned us that there could be problems for him from other students on those buses, so we haven’t tried it yet.

    We *really* want him to start riding public transit. It would make him more independent and give him the chance to look for a summer job.

    But… the East Bay Regional Center keeps telling us they don’t do public transit training for their clients, and it’s the job of the school to do it. The school says it’s not their responsibility – it’s the job of the Regional Center. Maybe DH and I will have to tackle it ourselves, and then bill OUSD and EBRC for doing their jobs for them. When they find out my hourly rate – assuming I should get reimbursed for taking time off work – they’re going to have a heart attack!

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand – not putting kids on yellow school buses, but getting them onto public transit seems like a really good idea to me. Not only my boy, but all kids, could benefit from learning to use public transit systems, and riding an AC Transit bus to school is an introduction.

    Note: I grew up in rural areas, and spent many, many years on old yellow buses on dirty roads surrounded by fields of alfalfa and potatoes. There’s no nostalgia factor in my opinion. The only good thing about those rides was that my homework was usually done before I got off the bus.

  • Katy Murphy

    I think the expense to the district is another major issue. It costs OUSD $8 million just to provide transportation to 1,500 special education students.

    In contrast, Oakland only pays AC Transit $2.5 million per year to make the extra routes, and that’s in state funds specifically allocated for that purpose. At a time when the district is cutting some $20 million from its budget and proposing to freeze teacher’s salaries, I can’t imagine how they would come up with many millions of dollars for transportation.

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  • Caroline

    This would have a harmful impact on students in San Francisco too, where Muni runs a couple of special routes like that and is being urged to add more. It would harm kids, schools, families and the community just to help enrich the private bus firms — gee, what’s not to like?

  • Maria Ku

    In Oakland, it’s not even about enriching private bus companies. No bus companies would ever be interested in replacing AC transit on many roots. It will just make Oakland very segregated and hurt all students – those who could not go to school where AC transit bus takes them now and those who will stay behind at those schools but lose their peers from less fortunate parts of Oakland. How short-sighted!

  • Nextset

    The above post mentioned “less fortunate parts of Oakland” – I disagree. Try “more hardworking parts of Oakland” or maybe “better parts of Oakland”.

    Making it in this society isn’t a matter of “fortune”. It is a matter of morals and values. The ghetto has neither. That’s why they have the problems they do.

    Every time we shy away from saying the truth, and every time we retreat from telling the truth about why failure exists, we reinforce bad behavior.

    Educators just love to use words like “dreams”, “gifted” and “fortunate” until it is a reflexive as breathing. They teach the failure factory students to think along those lines whether the “educators” realize they are doing it or not. This is a big part of the damage inflicted in the failure factories that keeps some people down – more so now than generations ago where it was more common for the poor to rise to the middle class and the professions. If you don’t believe that life isn’t what you make it, you won’t make it better.

    The poor used to have better teachers. Now they don’t. So they stay poor.

    Anyway with the likely permanent higher pricing of fuel we are going to see neighborhood shifts and busing cutbacks. The time it takes to double fuel costs is shrinking thanks to the fall of the dollar and US historical refusal to significantly increase domestic oil drilling and energy production. Public schooling will likely become more tied to neighborhood schools. Busing will have to be reduced sharply and quickly – it’s going to be too expensive.

    I think it’s inevitible that the internet will become more involved in delivery of education to the masses. And we will see internet breakthroughs first in private schools.

  • Katy Murphy

    The Christian Science Monitor sent a reporter to Oakland to cover the school bus issue. The story ran yesterday, and begins with a student at Skyline High School:


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  • Diamond Broussard

    I am very overwhelmed by the proposal because I am a frequent AC Transit rider. I have been on this bus system i’m sure ever since I was born. These bus lines are convenient and very important for me and the thousands of other OUSD students. Many of us attend schools that are not in walking proximity and have parents who work early in the mornings, as well as have younger siblings who need to be dropped off by our parents to school or day care.

    I understand that gas prices are raising, and that AC Transit needs to create more revenue, but there needs to be some other way. $20 for a youth pass is my cut off, so they beete3r get to fundraising at some churches or something.