All over the U.S., leaders have made cuts in education spending in order to get their state’s fiscal house in order. That has meant the loss of extra programs, such as sports and music. Spending on special needs and other support services have also taken a hit.
In California, the governor’s budget pulled the all funds for transportation for the rest of this year. Next year, funding for transportation could be eliminated all together. The result in urban areas is bad enough — kids who relied on free school busing to get to magnet schools will have to return to their neighborhood schools.
For a small but significant number of rural kids, these cuts mean they won’t be able to go to school at all.
The Los Angeles Times profiled 14-year-old Marlee RedWolf Rave, one of nine students at her school whose two-hour, round-trip ride on the school bus everyday will simply disappear. Marlee’s mother can’t afford to drive her to school everyday — not with gas prices as high as they are, not to mention the wear-and-tear on a car that would have to make the 120-mile daily voyage. Marlee’s mother is also a high-school drop-out and doesn’t feel educated enough herself to home school Marlee. The Small School District Association recommended that schools facing these devastating cuts either charge students a transportation fee, which Marlee’s family can’t afford, or arrange for independent study, but the family has no computer and no internet service. (Plus, Marlee’s 14 — she needs friends, classes and mentoring.)
The problem is that the vast distances and low population makes the cost of transporting Marlee much higher per student than the cost of transporting a city kid across town. City kids also have public transportation they could fall back on — an expense, yes, but not the $1,000 one family in Marlee’s school believes they would have to spend driving their kid in every day. Anyway, city kids wouldn’t be left without a school. Marlee and her friends would be.