posted by Debbie Pelley at Wednesday, March 16, 2005
At least 13 isolated schools could have kids riding 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours a day and at least 9 could have kids riding 3 hours a day if HB1289 passes Senate. HB1289 has already passed the house. HB1289, sponsored by Rep. Robert Thompson, would allow larger school districts that merged with smaller isolated districts to now close these isolated schools. This bill comes just a short time after all kinds of promises were made to superintendents and legislators to take care of the isolated districts - before the vote to consolidate schools in the last session. In 2003, before consolidation, I called 102 school districts, which were about 1/3 of the schools at that time, and found 30 school districts that had students riding round trips of 3 hours a day; 6 of those 30 schools ride 3 1/2 hours to 4 hours a day. Thirteen of these schools are on the isolated list and would ride 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours a day if they were bused to the nearest school. Another nine on the isolated list would ride three hours a day if they were bused to the nearest school. I only called 1/3 of the schools so there are probably several more isolated districts that would ride up to 4 hours a day. (For details and names of schools and length of rides see last part of this e-mail. A star is out beside those that are isolated districts in the last two sections.)Yet, Senator Argue is quoted as saying there should be only three or four isolated schools in the state.\ No one would want our kids on the bus for 3 to 4 1/2 hours a day - that is, no one without an agenda more important than our children. The bus routes these students ride are rough and dangerous as well as being long. “It seems thoughtless that adults would so frequently impose long commutes on rural children, when the average commuting time for adult Americans is just 22.4 minutes," says Dr. Craig Howley in his introduction to his study on long bus rides in the nation. He said bus routes in Arkansas was worst and had the most rugged, dangerous routes. I, myself, find it more than thoughtless; I find it cruel. It is thoughtless and irresponsible for the legislators to impose such bus ride conditions without first determining the truth of the matter. Senator Argue more or less told Senator Miller he didn't believe very many kids would be riding that long when Senator Miller asked Senator Argue, "Do you think four-hour bus ride is OK." Argue answered he didn't accept the fact on face value that it would be a four hour ride for every kid. Shouldn't Senator Argue find out the truth about the rides before saying these schools should not be designated as isolated and shouldn't the truth about the long rides have been on the table before the House made their decision to allow these isolated schools to be closed. No one in the state knew the length of the bus rides for the schools in 2003, and some expressed disbelief when the information on these long bus rides was sent to them. Yet, it seems that no one bothered since then to determine the length of these rides before they moved to close them. Before the consolidation agenda came along, these isolated districts were recognized as what they are: isolated and in a different category from other districts. All those promises to these districts went out the window once consolidation advocates obtained the votes of legislators on the consolidation bill. You can count on all the promises about the other consolidated districts and about the countywide school districts to go out the window just as quickly as these promises did. Following is information I sent out in 2003.Long Bus Rides in Arkansas I have contacted 102 school districts as of now. I first started calling them alphabetically, and then when I heard about the bill with cut off of 500, I started calling by size. I called or e-mailed each superintendent and got responses. If the superintendent was not in, I talked with a principal or bus transportation director who had this information. I specifically asked for the longest time any students in their district were actually on the bus. I did not ask for length of time bus drivers were on the bus. Schools with 3 to 4 hour round trip rides at the present time. (Some of these are within minutes of 4 hours a day) School District Name and enrollment number given. Enrollment won't be exact because they are not from this year's enrollment. School Dist. Enrollment Alpena 550 Gillett 235 Highland 1479 Kingston 271 Mountain Home 3902 St. Paul 339 Schools with 3 hours round trip rides at the present time. (Either 3 hours plus or within 10 minutes of 3 hours) on bus each day. (Scranton & Randolph have 3 hour rides when students are living in the far corners of their districts.)Bright Star 192 Deer 255 DeWitt 1170 Elaine 454 Flippin 923 Forrest City 3,465 Hermitage 549 Huntsvile 2045 Jasper 569 Leslie 266 Marshall 700 Mt. Judea 240 Newport 1736 Norfork 458 Oden 233 Perryville 949 Pleasant View 242 Randolph 284 Scranton 391 Sparkman 272 St. Joe 255 Umpire 110 Waldron 1665 Following schools would have 4 hour rides or more and some 5 hour rides if they consolidate with nearest school. In some cases that would not make them big enough not to meet the consolidation standards. See above article as to why these rides would be this long. Some superintendents gave me these estimated times, and others just gave me bordering schools. Based on transfer time, etc. and distances these are estimated because there is no certainty about who would consolidate with whom. Stars out beside them mean they are isolated districts.Alpena Alread * Bright Star * Bruno Pyatt * Calico Rock Cross County Deer * DeWitt Elaine Flippin Gillettt * Hector Highland * Jasper Kingston * Leslie * McCroy Mt. Holly * Oden * Perryville Randolph * St. Paul Southside St. Joe * Taylor Umpire * Schools that Would Have 3 Hours to 3 ? hour Rides if they consolidate based on nearest school. In some cases that would not make them big enough not to meet the consolidation standards. (See note above on 4 hour rides for explanation. Stars out beside them mean they are isolated districts.Bearden Bruno-Pyatt Cedarville Cord Charlotte Crawfordsville * Emmett * Emerson England Fountain Hill Gravette Harrisburg Hermitage Lakeview Kirby Lamar Lavaca Lead Hill Lynn * McNeil Marshall Mt. Holly Mt. Judea Nemo Vista Norfork Parking Paron * Perry * Pleasant View * Saratoga Scranton Sparkman * Strong Waldron Weiner Western Groves * Wiliford * Debbie Pelleydpelley@cox-internet.comcheck out this website: www.wpaag.org
I was especially irritated (angry is better word) at Senator Argue's quote in the newspaper at the Committee hearings saying, "The longer I've worked on these issues, the less and less confident I am in local decision making," Argue said. We all know he and the other legislators got all the schools in this mess and that schools have not had local control for a number of years now. Then to blame it on local control!!
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