As a child, I watched The Magic School Bus, an animated series that aired on Saturday Mornings. The series followed Mrs. Frizzle, a science teacher, on adventurous field trips aboard a magical school bus. In every episode, I learned something new about animals, the environment, human anatomy and countless scientific subjects. Any child who watched that show wished their school owned a magical school bus. Although our school buses were not supernatural, they were imperative in shaping our understanding of the world around us.
School buses transport students to school and on field trips to zoos, museums and historical landmarks. They offer students a change of scene from the regular school routine. For many students who reside in neighborhoods with few school options, the school bus provides access to a better educational environment at a student’s school of choice. Unfortunately for Los Angeles Unified School District students, this critical resource may cease to be available starting July 1st due to $248 million in state budget cuts to schools bus programs.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendant John Deasy has ensured that school bus transportation will continue to be provided at least for the rest of this academic year by redirecting the $38 million in bus cuts to other areas of the LAUSD budget. Just last week, the state Legislature decided not to target school bus transportation in the mid-year cuts in order to continue to provide transportation to California’s students for the remainder of the school year.
However, Gov. Jerry Brown has stated that additional cuts in schools’ budgets may occur. He has even proposed to eliminate transportation completely from the 2012-2013 education budget. Although this is still under review, and budget hearings have yet to take place, it is worrisome to think that funding for school bus transportation could be cut next year.
For LAUSD, the Home-to-School bus program is mandated for specific programs such as special education, magnet schools, public school choice and homeless students. These mandated programs service 48,000 students every day.
The impact of the transportation cuts will be immediate, also resulting in mass layoffs of school bus drivers, and adding strain on the already tight budgets for the arts, summer school, enrichment courses, supplemental support services, and guidance counselors. Deasy plans to propose a temporary parcel tax (a flat tax per parcel of land owned) in order to help LAUSD fund important educational services to students who need it most. Senior citizens who cannot afford the tax would be exempt, and the superintendent has stated that LAUSD would be transparent in how the money is used. However, a parcel tax has been on the ballot before, and the voters were opposed to the idea.
Youth who rely on school buses will be forced to walk miles to school or take public transportation””time consuming and impractical options in sprawling Los Angeles. Students in our community who are “at-risk” will be in greater jeopardy of dropping out due to the lack of a viable way to get to their school of choice.
It is time we acknowledge how valuable access to quality public education really is.
I encourage parents, community members, teachers, and schools alike to get involved and advocate for the future of the students in our neighborhood. Contacting your local legislator and/or the governor’s office is a good way to begin. You can contact your elected representative by calling (916) 445-2841 or visiting the website www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html
Xiomara Pedraza is a Boyle Heights resident and recent graduate of Occidental College where she received a B.A. in Critical Theory and Social Justice. She is currently the Program Associate for the Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative, a local community organization that works to elevate academic achievement by means of strengthening parent capacity, developing student leadership, and fostering civic engagement.