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Jennifer Schiess

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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Jennifer Schiess
Policy and Thought Leadership

Background: Jennifer Schiess is a principal on the Policy and Thought Leadership team. Previously, she spent a decade working with the Texas Legislature, most recently serving as the primary adviser to the legislature on school finance and a range of other public education issues including standards, assessment, and accountability; educator quality, compensation, and benefits; and charter schools and school choice policy. While in Texas, she led a team of analysts charged with managing and supporting legislative deliberations regarding the state’s public education budget and analyzing public education legislation for fiscal and policy implications. Prior to her time in Texas, Schiess worked in university and governmental relations for Vanderbilt University, where she collaborated with a range of communities internal and external to the university and led the establishment of a nonprofit organization concerned with regional smart planning, and taught English in a public high school in Nashville. Schiess holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Duke University, a master’s degree in education from Vanderbilt University, and a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University.

Why I Do This Work: I believe that in order to have a prosperous and accountable society of adults, we must provide our children with the tools, through our education system, to enable full participation in a democracy and to create economic success. As a product of public primary and secondary schools, I was fortunate to benefit from schooling that prepared me well and aligned with my goals for college and career, and I believe that it is both possible and essential that all children have access to a high quality educational experience.

Recent Media

Phillip Burgoyne-Allen
Jennifer O'Neal Schiess

Every day, nearly 25 million students ride a big yellow bus to school. These iconic vehicles are so entrenched in American school culture that their likeness is the predominant symbol for education.

There’s good reason for this. Since the yellow school bus came on the scene decades ago, almost nothing has changed about the vehicles or how school systems use them to transport students.

But do school transportation systems still meet the needs of current students, families, and schools? In "Miles to Go: Bringing School Transportation into the 21st Century,” we analyze school transportation on a national scale through three lenses:

  • Efficiency: Are current school transportation systems efficiently, cost-effectively, and safely serving schools’ needs?
  • Education: Are those systems meeting the needs of students and families as well as supporting their ability to access schools equitably?
  • Environment: Are student transportation systems minimizing their environmental impact in the communities they serve?

The image emerging from our work is grim. School districts struggle to provide efficient service in the face of escalating costs and increasingly complex education systems where more and more students attend schools outside their neighborhoods. Stagnant state funding streams force districts either to sacrifice service quality and forego system upgrades or divert funds from other purposes. Federal and state regulations concerning student safety and special student populations’ educational rights are at odds with strategies to improve efficiency. All those competing priorities must be carefully balanced.

Factors such as a shortage of qualified bus drivers and fuel market volatility further complicate these matters. Also, districts have largely failed to adopt even basic technologies to improve data collection as well as operational and cost-efficiency, much less major overhauls, such as replacing diesel with alternative fuels.