Local desegregation program needs more funding for after-school buses

Local desegregation program needs more funding for after-school buses

Parents, students and advocates of a 50-year-old desegregation program are calling for a budget increase to keep up with their after-school transportation costs.

For these METCO students, the bus is not just a means to get from their homes in Boston to Wellesley High School, it's a vehicle for inclusion.

"There's a lot of different places. A lot of different people that you meet. Just being there makes me better and the people around me better," said Wellesley High School student Davion Spann.

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But the longest running voluntary school desegregation program in the country may be forced to cut their after-school buses if they don't get an increase in state funding.

"That's like buying a tank of gas with the same amount of money you used in 2008 and expecting to have the same amount of gas in 2018. Impossible," said Kalise Wornum, Director of Wellesley METCO.

Governor Baker's office tells Boston 25 News they were "pleased to propose a balanced budget that invests over $4.8 billion in local education aid and over $20 million for the METCO program."

It's the same amount they've received for the last ten years and parents, advocates and students - like Taylor Irish - lobbied lawmakers at the State House for an extra $3 million for late buses.

"Being part of sports and clubs, it brings us. It makes us feel more included. If we're not, we don't have the buses we can't do those things and it makes us feel more like a minority," said Wellesley High student Taylor Irish.

"This is about integration and already our children are driving for hours a day to get to their districts and once they're there, we want them to be fully engaged in the entire experience," said METCO CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas.

METCO advocates say the program is not just about giving access to education for all students, it's also about teaching diversity to an entire state.

"The neuroscience of racism says that the only way you overcome bias is by having a shared experience. That's why METCO works," said Wornum.

METCO students have a 98 percent graduation rate. The state average is 87 percent.