A couple of years ago, an Arkansas legislator named Reginald Murdock began paying attention to the school buses that plied the highways around his state. Some of them seemed to be on the road for a disturbingly long time, subjecting their student riders to extended periods each day when they couldn’t do much except sit.
Murdock introduced a bill that called for a study of just how much time Arkansas kids were spending on buses. The results came back last summer, and they startled a lot of people. The median-length trip to public school -- one-way -- was 47 minutes. The average pupil was on board for more than an hour and a half in the course of a normal day. At the outer edge of the survey, there were children who recorded daily bus travel times of 5 hours and 34 minutes round-trip. The problem existed not only in remote rural counties but also in the urbanized area around Little Rock, where kids were riding long distances to magnet schools. Solving it would require money for extra buses and additional drivers that the state educational system had shown no willingness to provide.