Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, Clifornia

No More Buses for Rural Native American Students

ICTMN Staff
1/20/12

Native American students living in the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley may have to find another way to get to school since California has cut school transportation for the rest of this fiscal year. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state may eliminate the funding altogether for next year.

What does this mean for 14-year-old Marlee RedWolf Rave and the other eight students that ride the bus from the Timbisha Shoshone village to Death Valley High School in Shoshone, California? It could mean no buses and no buses means no school.

"School is the highlight of my life, and we can't get to school without the buses," Marlee recently told the Los Angeles Times.

But the buses, including Marlee’s 120-mile daily commute, cost the Death Valley Unified School District $3,500 a year for each of its 60 students that require home-to-school transportation.

This cut affects small school districts more than larger ones because state funding is allocated based on transportation costs, so small, rural schools with higher transportation costs stand to lose more.

And because the cut affects small school districts, it also has a bigger effect on Native American students. According to the California School Boards Association (CSBA), Native students only make up two percent of the state’s student population, but 23 percent of those Native students are enrolled at schools in small districts.

For now, the buses are running. Death Valley superintendent Jim Copeland told the Los Angeles Times that the school is using reserve funds to cover the costs for the rest of the school year.

But what about next year? What other options do the Death Valley students have? There’s home schooling, carpooling, or moving closer to school.

But Marlee’s family can’t afford any of those options. According to the Los Angeles Times, they have no Internet connection or computer and her mother can barely afford the $5 a gallon gas prices to make it to Death Valley school board meetings, let alone drive her daughter to school every day, or move where she had to pay rent. Their two-bedroom home is paid for.

Read the full story on the Los Angeles Times website.

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