Staying in the Neighborhood: Examining Distance to Zoned Schools and Access to Transportation

Blog post by Mauricio Molina, Erin Baumgartner, Katharine Bao
July 2023

Kinder Institute for Urban Research   (Houston)

In the Houston Independent School District (HISD), how far a student lives from their zoned school determines their access to school transportation. Per district policy, students must live at least 2 miles from their zoned school to be eligible for district-provided school transportation. The Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC) examined the distance between students’ homes and zoned schools across HISD to understand the effect distance has on zoned school enrollment, specifically within the context of HISD’s transportation eligibility policy. The research found that most students who attend their zoned elementary schools are ineligible for district-provided transportation because they live within 2 miles of that school. Additionally, students who lived closer to their zoned school were more likely to attend that school.Significant differences also exist in the share of students living within 2 miles of their zoned school who enrolled at that school and who did not when grouped by race, socioeconomic status, English learner status,and gifted/talented status. These findings applied across all grade levels and indicate that living closer to zoned school is associated with enrollment in that school, even though this could mean being ineligible for district-provided school transportation. Implications and recommendations for the district are also discussed.