Nearly four decades after this city was convulsed by violence over court-ordered busing to desegregate its public schools, Boston is working to reduce its reliance on busing in a school system that is now made up largely of minority students.
Although court-ordered busing ended more than two decades ago, and only 13 percent of students in the public schools today are white, the school district buses 64 percent of its students in kindergarten through eighth grade to schools outside their immediate neighborhoods. The city tried twice in the last decade to change the system and failed both times.
In January, Mayor Thomas M. Menino asked school officials to come up with “a radically different plan” under which students would be assigned to schools as close to home as possible.
Boston’s 57,000-student school district is divided into three sprawling geographic zones. A racially blind computerized algorithm assigns students to schools anywhere within their zone. Many students go so far that transportation alone costs the city $80.4 million a year — about 9.4 percent of the school system’s operating budget, almost twice the national average.
But expense is not the only concern. Children who live on the same block often go to different schools. In the violence-torn Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester, school officials said, 1,912 students attend 102 schools out of 128 schools in the entire district. These include high school students, who are not limited by zone. ...
Recent scores show the Boston Public Schools lagging badly behind schools in the rest of the state.