Maybe busing isn’t the (only) problem

School busing in Boston is a four-letter word, a phrase often spewed as a profanity whenever the subject of the city’s schools comes up in conversations, which is to say all the time.

Going back to the 1970s, when the city exploded into a race and class war over the yellow beasts rumbling through the neighborhoods, school busing has been blamed for the demise of the city’s educational system, the flight of middle-class families to the suburbs, and the drain on taxpayer dollars all in an effort to satisfy the need to improve the schools in an equitable fashion.

Every parent wants their kid to go to school close to home but not every school close to home is a quality school. So they try for a high-performing school, often in another neighborhood, and put their student on the bus for cross-town rides. But the cost of transportation in Boston to satisfy the school assignment plans is now $122 million and officials think that money can be better spent directly in the classroom.

Once again, busing is being blamed but is it accurate to cite it as the cause of all the system’s ills? As the Boston Globe points out, most of the money for busing stems from state and federal mandates with some grants and reimbursements, with the actual cost of school assignment to the city about $37 million. In a $1.1 billion budget, that $37 million is not going to do much.  (A correction has been appended to the bottom of this story)

There’s also the problem that the existing schools no longer equally meet the needs of the populations where they live. Some neighborhoods have seen an exodus of families so classrooms sit empty and resources dry up while other neighborhoods have been experiencing a boom in younger populations moving in but the schools in the areas don’t meet their needs educationally.

Another issue that is a smaller, yet somewhat noticeable, elephant in the room is the lack of a constituency for the school system. Last school year, there were 55,843 children enrolled in Boston public schools. Yet Census figures indicate there were nearly 78,000 school-aged children living in Boston, meaning nearly 28 percent of eligible students go to charter, parochial, or private schools. What’s being done to pull them back into the system?

There’s also the matter of housing. There’s a building boom going on in Boston, as most everyone knows, but the majority of those residential developments are being built downtown, in the Seaport, the South End, in the Fenway, and other areas that aren’t traditional family neighborhoods. The prices aren’t likely to attract those families anyway. With rents escalating and affordable units sitting empty, there’s not much available to bring those families into the city.

Another problem is the lack of new schools in Boston. The Walsh administration, much like the Menino administration, is playing finger-in-the-dike with repairs to the city’s 125 aging schools, replacing roofs, windows, and boilers. New school construction, with its promise of advanced facilities and improved technology, is but a dream.

The new Dearborn STEM Academy will open its doors this fall and the city has won state approval and funding to replace the Boston Arts Academy. The Eliot K-8 Innovation School just completed its renovations but, other than that, there’s nothing much on the horizon despite Mayor Marty Walsh’s promise to accelerate a capital plan.

And then there’s the question of whose interests does the appointed School Committee represent. Not everyone has the same answer and there’s a renewed movement afoot to return to an elected body, though there’s still plenty of people around who recall the potential debacles in that.

But what it comes down to is busing is a problem, but not the only problem. It can cure some of the ills, exacerbate others, and serve as a convenient punching bag for everyone’s frustrations. But maybe it’s time to take off the gloves and look at the other issues that are building up while we knock around the big yellow bus.

(Correction: The original version of this story misrepresented the cost breakdown presented by the Globe.)



The state beat its revenue forecasts by $1.1 billion last year. (Associated Press) The 8.6 percent bump over the previous year was probably driven by a combination of economic growth and changes from the new federal tax law. (Boston Globe)

At an event in Lynn, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law legislation providing paid leave for firefighters with work-related cancer. (Daily Item)

Attorney General Maura Healey announced an investigation into JUUL, the largest vaping company in the country, for its role in underage use of its products. (Eagle-Tribune)

Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton is seeking to undo one element of the grand bargain, the elimination of time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays. (MassLive)


Some voters in Rockland have launched an effort to recall Selectman Edward Kimball, one of three officials swept up in a tawdry sex scandal that has shaken town government and resulted in the resignation of one selectman and the suspension of the Town Administrator. (Patriot Ledger)

A proposal to change the name of Milton’s Board of Selectmen to the gender-neutral Select Board, first endorsed by selectmen then reversed on reconsideration, is heading to a special town meeting. (Patriot Ledger)


The lawyer for Michael Cohen released the tape of a conversation between President Trump and Cohen, his former lawyer, that appears to show Trump was aware of a proposed payment to keep a Playboy model silent about their alleged affair and suggested it be made in cash. (New York Times)
A federal judge in Boston will allow a case to proceed that is alleging that discrimination is behind the federal government’s order to end Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras. (Boston Globe)

A study of the lead levels in children in Flint, Michigan, are not at the dangerous levels that parents and officials feared after the water supply was found to be contaminated with lead. (National Review)


One-third of Worcester’s registered voters are on an inactive voter list, meaning they didn’t respond to a citywide census of voters. The designation doesn’t mean the inactive voters can’t vote; it just means they have to prove where they live when they show up at the polls. (Telegram & Gazette)


WBUR does a major takeout on the new Hulu series Castle Rock and its impact on the town of Orange and the film production industry in general in Massachusetts. The new series, based on Stephen King stories, showcases central Massachusetts, where it was filmed. (Telegram & Gazette)

To be a 1 percenter in Massachusetts, you need to earn $1.9 million a year, according to a new study that breaks down the 1 percent cutoff by state and county across the country. Income inequality is the steepest in Massachusetts in Suffolk County, where a 1 percenter would need to earn nearly $2.8 million. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Necco plant in Revere was abruptly closed on Tuesday after the iconic candy company was sold for the second time in less than three months. (Boston Globe)

The median price for a single-family home in Massachusetts went over the $400,000 mark in June for the first time ever. (State House News)

A study by Pew Research Center finds that only members of Generation X — those born between 1965 and 1980 — are experiencing a full recovery following the Great Recession. (U.S. News & World Report)


Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute says Common Core’s reduction in fiction reading is draining the life out of schools. (CommonWealth)

The Wayland School Committee is taking steps to reduce the number of Open Meeting Law violations after a resident filed at least 25 complaints, 21 of which he says have been upheld by the Attorney General. (MetroWest Daily News)


Transportation officials are warning commuters to seek alternative routes as they prepare for bridge reconstruction work that will halve the capacity of the Massachusetts Turnpike through Boston and close the Boston University Bridge and a stretch of Commonwealth Avenue for two weeks. (Boston Globe)


Massachusetts electricity ratepayers will pay 5.9 cents a kilowatt hour for hydroelectricity from Quebec, a price that may trim bills slightly. (CommonWealth)

Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill and some city councilors are at odds over whether a solar array belongs on top of the historic town hall. (Salem News)

The state has agreed to replant trees to replace the ones that were clear cut without seeking local input at the entrance to a fish hatchery in Sandwich. (Cape Cod Times)


The disparity between state and federal law regarding marijuana is causing concern for the insurance industry and property owners about what would be covered in cases of damage from use or home cultivation of pot in Massachusetts. (Wicked Local)

After the Brockton City Council defeated a proposal to put a citywide referendum before voters to ban retail pot sales, some councilors who supported a ban are asking for residents’ input for zoning proposals about where to allow recreational marijuana. (The Enterprise)


A Suffolk Superior Court judge will consider a request from prosecutors with the attorney general’s office and Suffolk district attorney’s office to order the release to prosecutors of the names of witnesses who cooperated with a state Senate-sponsored investigation of former Senate president Stan Rosenberg. Prosecutors say the information would aid their criminal investigation of Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, on sexual assault charges, and they argue the witnesses were assured confidentiality only to the greatest extent “possible.”(Boston Herald)

Community leaders have a long wish list of things they’d like to see happen under incoming Boston police commissioner Willie Gross. (Boston Globe)

A 34-year-old Haverhill man was arrested for exercising naked at a Planet Fitness gym in Plaistow. As he was taken into custody, he said he thought the gym was a “judgment free zone,” which is the gym’s promotional tagline. (Eagle-Tribune)


John Henry says he has no plans to sell the Boston Globe, but in an email interview with Northeastern University professor Dan Kennedy he expressed frustration with the paper’s inability to meet budgets on either the revenue or expense side. (WGBH)

A new study suggests that, where local newspapers close, municipal borrowing costs increase because lenders have less ability to evaluate projects and the managers overseeing them. (Governing)

President Trump was allegedly enraged when he saw that First Lady Melania Trump was watching CNN on a television on Air Force One during their recent trip to Europe. (New York Times)