The Wheels on the Bus Go Round Round Round

Wednesday evening I was wearing my North East Community Council Parks Committee hat and attending the Russian Jack Community Council to talk about preserving Russian Jack Springs Park. John Steiner was there promoting our school bonds. While I do support the bonds, I have to note how quickly the current Board is to point out that it was prior administrations that built so cheaply in the 70's. Only time will tell if current design and contracting practices are any better. And we are all betting our homes that they are, aren't we? But I digress....

The topic of transportation for disabled children came up. Mr Steiner, though not expecting the questions, did his best to argue that the issues was unexpected (only to those not paying attention) and when asked why ASD didn't pursue a greater involvement with PeopleMover suggested that this is something the Board could look at. I jumped in (apologizing, of course, to Mr. Steiner) in that I had submitted a proposal for a trial project between ASD and PeopleMover (which PeopleMover agreed to consider) five years ago. I provided my documentation to the Board members and to Mr. Kalmes, who rejected the suggestion out of hand because PeopleMover buses weren't safe (forget about the careful research and cites which indicated that just the opposite was likely to be true.) Now here we were, years later, with Mr. Steiner telling constituents that the Board would "look into it."

For those unfamiliar, this practice, at its worse, is called glad handing. You, as a constituent, whether intentionally or otherwise, are getting "blown off" and your concern is going nowhere. At best, this translates into the conclusion that the person you are speaking to is simply ineffective. For those who think I am being too harsh, consider the suggestion by the self-same Mr. Steiner that ASD ought to keep a tech review committee in place (see, According to Ms. Berglund, Chief Information Officer of ASD (i. e. head of IT) "the superintendent has chosen not to have an IT advisory committee." Apparently it is Ms. Comeau who is giving orders, not the Board.

My son started riding PeopleMover when he was around 8 years old. We found that it was safer, saner, and more secure in many respects. Use of yellow buses for high school students puts many of our most devoted students at risk because of the impact of after school activities (driving with a teen is about as dangerous an activity as you can find). Students wishing to use PeopleMover are essentially punished by having to pay for it themselves. More riders translates to more union workers, more buses and more comprehensive transit system.

We need people on the Board who can direct ASD policy in these directions, as it is pretty obvious that ASD isn't going to do much about your idea any time soon.............


A reader writes:

I have a specific question for you. What are your thoughts on trying to get school bus service for ASD charter schools?

Marc responds:

I believe the answer to your concerns will come from the integration of the District transportation system with our public transit system, PeopleMover (see my comments at People Mover have repeatedly indicated their willingness to look at this but ASD and AKDEED are still hiding behind policies dating back to the 70's, long before the millennial research on student transportation, which suggests that public transport may actually be safer than yellow bus usage.

One way or the other, providing ASD students capable of riding PeopleMover with blanket bus passes solves quite a few problems, including making free transport available to students old enough to ride PeopleMover, and does that with a potential for savings and expansion of our public transit system.

Additionally, I think that we could find creative ways to use stimulus funding to help implement such programs.

Less systemic options run afoul of equity issues, which already plague optional and charter programs, though I think students who are impacted by failing schools who have the option to transfer should be entitled to transfer to optional and charter schools with all the benefits that are afforded students who transfer to traditional schools.

Frankly, if you consider the current process by which children are transported to special programs for which they are entitled by law to transportation you quickly realize that you would not want to subject your children to that experience. Direct home to school service is not provided as totally unmanageable and students end up getting taken to transfer stations.

Of course one always has recourse to AkDEED and the charter school laws could be amended to mandate the provision of transportation. I personally think that this would be a difficult prospect at this time based on our budget situation. This could also make current education law more complex than it already is, and as AkDEED has so often refused to enforce compliance with state education laws, such efforts may not have any reasonable return.

This communication was paid for by Marc Grober, 5610 Radcliff Dr. Anchorage, AK 99504