Will a new school district analysis of how far students live from school quiet criticism over the busing program?
As noted in today's article, the new report found that 86 percent of students are assigned to schools within 5 miles of their home and it's up to 99 percent when you increase the distance to 10 miles from home.
Supporters of the district are hailing the report as proof that busing complaints are overstated.
"The vast majority of the county goes to schools near where they live, which is an admirable accomplishment for our school system," said Ann Denlinger, president of the Wake Education Partnership.
You can expect this report to be cited plenty of times between now and the school board elections in October. Some school board members, notably Horace Tart, have been citing preliminary figures from the report, particularly that 90 percent of elementary students are assigned to schools within five miles of home.
Critics are faulting the methodology of the report. They're taking aim at how Wake used straight-line distance for the calculations.
“It is deceitful of WCPSS to make these claims to the public,” said Allison Backhouse, a member of the steering committee of the Wake Schools Community Alliance. “Buses don't travel in straight-line distances and neither do the children who spend hours on them.”
Asst. Supt. Chuck Dulaney, a co-author of the study, said they used straight-line distance to get an "apples to apples comparison" across the district. This use of "as the crow flies" reckoning does present a shorter distance than if you used travel distance.
But Dulaney said the problem with using travel distance is that it's variable. It can change based on the route you're taking.
According to the report, based on 2006-07 data, the longest straight-line distance for a base school assignment is 14 miles. But 28 students travel farther for special-ed services.
One of the questions I'm hearing is why 2006-07 was used and not a later year. Dulaney said work had begun on the study a couple of years ago but hadn't been completed due to other projects.
Dulaney said they decided to finish the work that had already begun on the 2006-07 data. He said they next plan to check in 2009-10, which would continue a pattern of three-year intervals in the data that began with the 2003-04 school year.
(The blog will be on a break next week.)