Hundreds of school buses roll across San Francisco before sunrise to pick up the city's students and take them miles from home. The habit of hauling thousands of youngsters all over town comes from a court order on school integration.

But now that the 20-year-old policy is set to expire, many parents are hoping forced busing (search) will expire along with it.

School assignments are determined through a "diversity index," which bases school placement on factors including a student's race and socio-economic background. Address is low on the index. Parents can request a neighborhood school, but many kids end up on the bus anyway.

Bill Jackson, CEO of Greatschools.net, helped develop ideas for more economic school assignments in which student race and family income do not matter.

"It's not the first purpose of the schools to be that mixing mechanism. It's got to be the first purpose of the schools to give a good education," Jackson said.

But San Francisco school board member Mark Sanchez, who is also a teacher, said giving up on school desegregation will cost more money.

"It's not black kids, it's not Latino kids, just their problem, that our society has race issues, it's white kids' problem, too. And in so much as they can get something from being with other students of different ethnicities and backgrounds and income levels, they're going to gain from that," Sanchez said.

Jackson calls it "a noble but misguided idea" that school districts can create ideal societies through integration policies.

Both sides agree that placing the burden of desegregation (search) on the shoulders of an already strained school system is problematic, but with the policy up for review, the good intentions behind the program are being challenged by parents and administrators alike.

The battle looks like it will come down to measuring the value of school busing against the cost of teaching math and English.

Click in the box near the top of the story for a report by FOX News' Claudia Cowan.