Students and parents blindsided by government bus policy

Lee Friday – May 23, 2017

The London Free Press reported that “Dozens of London-area high school students will lose their seats on school buses next fall following a review that found they live close enough to walk.”[1]

Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services (STS) is the government agency responsible for “coordination”  of school bussing. But they are not “coordinating” with those who are most dependent on the service i.e. the students and parents who are upset with the new government policy.

Elementary students living less than 1.6 kilometres (one mile) from school, and high school students living less than 3.2 kilometres (two miles) from school, are no longer allowed on the bus. Apparently, this policy has been in place for some time, but not applied consistently. Now, upon review, STS chief administrator Maureen Cosyn Heath says some students no longer meet eligibility requirements.

From the STS mission statement: “STS is committed to planning and delivering service which is safe, effective and efficient.” However, as with any government entity, “planning” is completely arbitrary. And an arbitrary withholding of service means that many students and parents are less able to “effectively and efficiently” plan their own lives.

As people make plans, they seek efficiency. For example, availability of school bus service often influences the choice of where to buy a home. When the service is withdrawn, this disrupts the lives of these families. Parents might have to drive the kids to school, which may negatively affect their work schedules. More stress. Sure, kids could walk, but it may not be a safe area. More stress. In a safe area, walking is certainly good exercise, but it leaves less time for homework and extracurricular activities. More stress. Higher stress levels in the family may reduce the ability of parents to focus on their jobs, thereby limiting their ability to maintain or enhance their incomes.

STS says it is committed to providing “safe” service, yet when it comes to calculating those distances of 1.6 and 3.2 kilometres, its policy statement tells us “Parental concerns with road or pedestrian safety are not considered during distance computations.”

Safety and efficiency is in the eye of the beholder, or in our case, the eye of the bureaucrat.

From the LFP article (emphasis added): “It does affect us personally, so of course we’re not happy about it,” said Andrea Sanderson, whose son will have to find his own way to Beal secondary school in the fall, after years of riding the bus.

Bureaucratic decisions are easily made because other people (not the bureaucrats) are personally affected. The school bus problem arises out of the coercive nature of government. The government decides how much it will charge us (taxes) for various services, then decides how much service to actually provide. Less money spent on the provision of services leaves more money available for bureaucratic salaries. This principle also explains poor teacher performance in the schools.

With the government involved in every aspect of our lives, it is more difficult to plan our lives. We are always asking ourselves, “What will they do next?”


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