In Case You Missed It: California Teacher Urges Congress To Make Nation’s Capital Accessible To All Students By Modernizing Outdated DCA Perimeter Rule

In case you missed it, Darlene Torres, a long-time educator in California, published an op-ed in Calo News urging Congress to modernize the outdated perimeter rule to make the national capital area more accessible for students. Torres noted the perimeter rule poses significant challenges to her annual educational trips for high school students, which she has undertaken for the past 25 years.

Plane tickets from Los Angeles to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have become prohibitively expensive, jeopardizing many west coast students’ opportunity to explore Washington, D.C. and have an invaluable educational experience. Torres underscores that the higher ticket costs disproportionately affect her low-income students, who rely on community donations to make the trip possible. The extended layovers caused by limited flight options also cut valuable learning time.

A bipartisan solution in the U.S. Senate to modernize the perimeter rule would increase competition in the District of Columbia air travel market and reduce ticket prices. Torres calls on California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla to support this proposal and ensure that every student, regardless of socioeconomic background, can affordably visit the nation’s capital.

Read the entire piece HERE and below:

Make Washington, D.C. Trips Accessible For All Students
Calo News
Darlene Torres
August 15, 2023

For more than 25 years, I have had the privilege of taking hundreds of Latino high school students to Washington, D.C. Seeing their excitement, many of whom are on their first cross-country flight, always makes the trip worth it. Being in the nation’s capital and taking in the awe-inspiring sight of the National Mall is nothing short of transformative for these young minds.

For my students from Baldwin Park and the San Gabriel Valley, trips to Washington, D.C. have become an anticipated rite of passage and a cherished tradition. However, this invaluable learning experience – a milestone in my students’ educational journey – is not easy because of a little-known federal rule from the 1960s that makes the trip long and extremely expensive.

The “perimeter rule” imposes an artificial 1,250-mile boundary limiting the number of direct flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). Since Los Angeles is well outside of this arbitrary radius, my students and I have very few options for direct flights to DCA. Fewer choices result in higher ticket prices and unnecessary connecting flights.

The Washington, D.C. metropolitan region is the most expensive air travel market because of the perimeter rule limits. Dulles International Airport (IAD), another Washington, D.C.-area airport that we’ve flown into many times, costs an average of $500 per ticket – the highest average ticket price in the nation.

These prices matter – especially for students like mine where our student body is 95% Latino. They have to overcome significant hurdles to go on these trips. Most face financial limitations because they come from low-income families and often lack the same opportunities as their more affluent peers. Without donations from our community, this experience wouldn’t be possible for the students that participate in the Washington D.C. trip each year.

Because of the perimeter rule, students spend more time on planes due to long layovers and less time learning about our country’s rich history, visiting world-famous museums and experiencing our democracy firsthand.

The repercussions of this regulation are hurting students and putting valuable educational opportunities out of reach. But thankfully, there is a bipartisan solution under consideration in the U.S. Senate right now to fix it.

Some Republican and Democratic Members of Congress have taken steps to change the perimeter rule and allow more direct flights to DCA. Adding more flights will help better connect the West Coast to Washington, D.C. and lower ticket prices so more students have more affordable access to our nation’s capital.

The opportunity to partake in this transformative educational experience in Washington, D.C. should not be reserved for those who can afford it. It is time for change – where every student, no matter where they live or where they come from, has the opportunity to visit the nation’s capital more affordably. I encourage members of Congress, including California’s Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, to help by authorizing more flights at DCA and ensuring this unique learning experience is available to everyone.

About CAA

CAA consists of diverse members from around the country and various industries, including transportation, general business groups, the small business sector, entrepreneurs and job creators, organizations focused on economic development and leaders in the civic and policy communities. 

Learn more about Capital Access Alliance HERE.