What if you found out that this week’s Florida Lottery had one-fourth fewer players than usual. Would you buy a few extra tickets? Of course you would. The odds would be stacked in your favor. When West Shore opened as a school of choice nearly 20 years ago, it was granted status as a public institution in part because students who applied had an equal shot at admission due to a lottery-based process. In addition, a large part of that equal access was predicated on corridor busing, which enabled affordable transportation for all.
Four years ago, Brevard Public Schools ended corridor busing after questionable financial decisions caused a budgetary shortfall, and following that decision, campus culture slowly began to change.
Without an easy method of transportation to the school, many students from far-flung areas or those with families unable to transport them began to leave the school.
A private a pay-to-ride service attempted to fill the transportation void at a cost of $1,200 per student per year. The price, coupled with inconvenient pickup locations eventually torpedoed that plan.
Before buses were canceled, approximately 800 seventh-graders applied to the school each year, but last year, that number dropped to just under 500.
Since the loss of corridor busing, the school’s socioeconomic profile slowly changed to one consisting mostly of middle-to-upper class families, leaving behind those unable to bear the financial weight of transporting their children to and from school.
In addition, the school lost some of its diversity and competitiveness.
Previously, some of those from disadvantaged backgrounds seized the opportunity for a first-class education and pushed themselves to the top of their classes academically which in turn encouraged others to raise their games as well, diminishing the complacency that sometimes results from entitlement.
It’s somewhat irritating that it took four years for busing to return, but we should celebrate the renewed competition headed our way.
Regional busing should once again level the playing field so that all members of the community have access to the experience we cherish and in the process will restore the competitive balance that has made our school one of the best in the nation.