New study shows inequalities in distances students travel in DC


India waits to cross an intersection on her walk home from Kelly Miller Middle School in late January. After receiving so many tardies at Hardy, Vanessa decided to switch India into a middle school closer to their home. Photo by Lydia Thompson/Urban Institute.

School choice policies in Washington, DC, have given families unprecedented options, but in some cases, more options can mean tough decisions. Though students have more choice as to where they can attend school, parents must figure out how to get them there.

In a new narrative feature and report, the Urban Institute Student Transportation Working Group examines this tension, exploring total travel times between home and school for nearly 190,000 students across five US cities, including DC.

DC has a robust public school choice program, offering all students the chance to enter a lottery to attend their public or charter school of choice, regardless of neighborhood. Unlike other cities, however, DC does not offer yellow bus service to help students get to those schools, instead offering free public transportation access for all students.

While that option works from some students, it leaves some with few options, as writer Emily Peiffer documented in the feature on DC. India Sigure, a 12-year-old from DC’s Ward 7, had been accepted to a high-performing middle school on the other side of town, and her grandmother drove her every day. But eventually, she and her grandmother found the commute to be too much, and India transferred to her neighborhood school. 

For more on India’s story and the issue of school transportation in DC, check out the feature or read the report.