How Transportation Affects Education
More than 25 million children, over 55% of U.S. public K-12 students, climb aboard school buses each day, according to the Center for Cities and Schools at the University of California, Berkeley. But how does reliable transportation affect children’s education? The short answer: greatly. By limiting school choices, spending more time on travel, increasing truancy and absences, and denying breakfast, while students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are disproportionately vulnerable.
It’s not uncommon for rural as well as urban children to spend more than two hours a day on the bus while their classmates who can walk or be chauffeured to school attend dance class or SAT prep. Many of the perks that schools offer such as tutoring, physical activities, or building teacher/student relationships are lost in the shuffle to and from school using public transportation.
A survey of parents in eight cities found that 19 to 32 percent reported finding transportation to and from school a problem. More noticeable was the fact that parents with a high school diploma or less were much more likely to report difficulties with transportation than those with college degrees.
This “geographic opportunity gap” is worse for younger students. When students attend high school, many times they can also take public transportation that is not on the school bus route. While this may give more opportunities for extracurriculars and possibly save time, safety is a huge issue for younger kids. Many students (and their parents) simply don’t feel safe with them using public transportation alone in certain areas.
Another common issue with unreliable transportation is tardiness or absence. Tardiness caused by unreliable transportation can also exacerbate the achievement gap. It not only affects how they are marked for attendance, but it also negatively affects other classmates and teachers who are stuck waiting. School busses may show up everyday but many times are running 20 to 30 minutes behind.
Many of the most vulnerable kids who qualify for the free or reduced meals don’t always get to receive them due to transportation problems. This is due in part to the children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals not being able to finish their breakfast in the cafeteria before class begins – kids just can’t be asked to board a bus earlier than 6:55 a.m. This also decreases the time kids can sleep, potentially harming development.
Access to a reliable car can significantly increase the number of schools available to a family. This means they can pick and choose for better academic programs and performance to help their children succeed. So, the form of transportation can substantially affect the quality of a student’s education, the composition of their peer groups, and the before- and after-school activities.
The Urban Institute found that, “Factors such as inclement weather, traffic, irregular public transit schedules, out-of-pocket costs, or a change in a student’s home location all interact with transportation choices to affect where students go to school and the amount of time they spend there.”
All in all, reliable transportation is crucial in getting students to perform well in academia. Whether reliable transportation allows for more time spent in extracurricular activities, tutoring, sleeping, better attendance, not missing meals, or increases in safety, all these factors contribute to why it is so important to help families in need secure transportation. The Hub Garage is here to help single mother families with automotive services, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help to make sure single moms stay in the driver’s seat and provide better education opportunities for their kids.