For decades, school choice advocates have championed creative and innovative solutions to the problems families face within the public school system.
For some families, the freedom offered by school choice may come with additional hurdles related to school transportation. The benefit of attending a school other than the government-assigned public school might result in a longer commute. Access to specialized after-school programs are excellent tools to meet the unique needs of a student, but it might prove to be a challenge for parents. For other families, getting their children to even their assigned neighborhood public school is challenging, particularly in rural, poor areas.
On top of these familial and geographic hurdles, school districts face many challenges related to the transportation of students, including bus driver shortages, funding constraints, policy changes, and routing difficulties. Thankfully, several organizations have recognized these issues and taken action to make school transportation less of a burden for American families.
HopSkipDrive is an app that addresses transportation issues as it seeks to provide students with safe and flexible transportation to and from school and related activities. Operating in over 20 neighborhoods in the U.S., including Seattle, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, and the greater Washington DC area, HopSkipDrive allows parents to schedule individual or recurring rides for their students to and from school, appointments, or activities.
To ensure student safety, drivers must meet a set of qualifications including being above the age of 23, having at least five years of caregiving experience, and passing a multi-agency background check including fingerprinting.
It operates similarly to rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft but offers several enhanced features that give parents peace of mind. Parents are able to schedule rides in advance and connect with the driver beforehand and receive updates throughout the ride.
At the state level, Arizona remains a leader in education opportunity. A for Arizona, an organization that strives for educational success for all of Arizona’s students, has transformed the transportation systems in Arizona with its grant program. The program has awarded millions to worthy causes across the state to ensure there are no transportation barriers in the way of a proper education:
The grant program, administered through the A for Arizona Expansion & Innovation Fund, supports locally driven solutions to provide reliable access for more families to the public learning options that best meet each child’s needs. Grant applications were reviewed and assessed by a Vetting Committee of local and national industry, philanthropic and community leaders. In this first round, the Vetting Committee awarded more than $18 million in awards to seed 24 proposals across Arizona, including in our most remote and hard to reach communities.
The grant recipients are a diverse set of educational institutions, from newly-formed independent microschools to public school districts.
Arizona Autism Charter School, the first tuition-free, public charter school in Arizona focused on the educational needs of children with autism, received a two million dollar grant to “launch a transportation system that serves high needs students traveling from all parts of the Valley.”
Heritage Elementary Williams Charter School received a $95,000 grant from A for Arizona to address transportation issues in their rural, impoverished community: parents’ work hours and unreliable transportation cause many students to miss or arrive tardy to school. The grant hopes to establish an on-demand service of vans that work around parents’ work hours to ensure that students are able to get to and from school safely.
It’s encouraging to observe the spirit of innovation that has revolutionized the education space as it extends to transportation options for students as well. Like education options, transportation best serves students when there is an element of personalization and flexibility, which is what we see in HopSkipDrive and A for Arizona.