Getting from point A to point B (or, Reform This)
This week I've been wondering why oh why are CPS bus forms due at the beginning of June, but public school families feel blessed beyond belief if they receive bus information on a little yellow postcard more than a week before school starts.
It's 3 weeks until Track R (regular schedule) and I still don't know where or what time my child needs to get on the bus at her new school.
Since I work full time, I need to make child care arrangements in the afternoon. To say the least, it would help to know where and when she will be dropped off.
If your child has ever taken the bus before, you also know buses are routinely late for the first few weeks of school. I guess no one ever introduced them to the idea of a "dry run."
When I called the transportation department at CPS, they punted me to the school. When I couldn't reach anyone at the school, central office told me that the busing assignments take so long because each school hands the forms in at different times, some much later than others.
"But I had to hand in the form on June 2," I said.
I was required to hand in an original signed form too. No copies. No PDF, no facsimile, nor electronic form acceptable for this important vital document.
I know a parent whose child got into an IG middle school program, but was never given the forms for busing (or orientation). When she discovered this last month, the school told her it was too late to sign up for busing. Oh well.
So as people talk about school "reform" - how about improving a much easier problem? Couldn't transportation as a logistical issue be improved for both families and yield efficiencies in cost and effort? Couldn't we better align student transportation needs with city CTA resources? Community resources? Parent resources? I know 85% of CPS students are low income, but I'll chip in, the same way I'd pay for school lunch if my child would eat it.
If CPS would improve transportation, maybe they would not be increasing the FY13 transportation budget to $115,786,615 -- up considerably from the $24,997,463 in the adopted FY12 budget (nevermind that over $103M was spent in that year - oops).
This doesn't even broach the issue of equity. Families must live within a six mile radius for elementary magnet busing. Since most magnets are tightly clustered on the north side of Chicago, tens of thousands of children are ineligible for busing.
The only change I have seen in transportation in the last two years is a revolving door of department leadership. I wasn't sure who they report up to, so I called CPS. A couple line staffers I talked to weren't sure either. The org chart, which is hard enough to find on cps.edu, is woefully out of date. There's at least three or four new "Chiefs" missing.
One person I talked to told me that transportation reports directly to the CAO, Tim Cawley.
You might recall that Mr. Cawley received a unanimous waiver from the Board of Education to be able to live in Winnetka and work for CPS at a salary of $215k per year. Surely a logistical nightmare like CPS' hairy transportation would be low hanging fruit for a SWAT team of clever MBAs to transform? (Note to reader: I like MBAs).
If CPS could fix the transportation nightmare parents have to endure each year, perhaps I'd be a little more receptive to drinking the Kool-Aid on other "improvements" coming down the pike.
Until then, I remain vigilant, watching the snail mail for my little yellow postcard.