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Denver Leads the Way in School Choice

U.S. News & World Report published an article on Denver’s public school systems, which have long been recognized for their forward-thinking approach to school choice. The school district is home to more than 92,000 students, who largely have the choice to attend any public school in the district where they live. This allows families in Denver to choose from about 200 schools for their children.

The downside to this arrangement is that some students spend more than four hours a day commuting to school. This is a major drain on transportation resources and cuts into students’ time to play sports or participate in extracurricular activities. Although most students only have a 20-minute commute to their schools, students in high school are far more likely to embrace a longer daily commute to attend the school of their choice. A recent study also showed that minority students are more likely to travel longer distances to be able to attend better quality schools.

Denver has not been able to provide public transportation choices for all students, which some argue is contributing to a lasting divide between students based on socioeconomic grounds. Students from wealthier families can afford their own transportation to be able to attend better schools. Denver estimates that it will spend about $26 million this year on transporting students of all grade levels to school. Other districts across the country have looked to Denver to be able to replicate its public school transportation program, but this district still has troubles of its own in finding enough school drivers and buses to keep up with student demand. Many drivers are able to make better wages with more flexible hours in the private sector.

When asked to opine on this issue, many educators and school psychologists have said that the effect of longer commutes to school on students truly depends on their unique situations. Some students may be in a better position to handle the stressors of a long commute and can adapt to completing their homework or reading during their commute.

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