I attend a charter school, Animo Pat Brown. Like every other school, charter schools have been affected because of state budget cuts.
My freshman year, we had six school buses. Every year there were fewer buses, but now in my senior year there are no buses. Students have to take public transportation to get to school. Eight to 10 students left Animo Pat Brown because of the bus cuts, office manager Tirsa Barbero told me. The school has around 550 students. Having fewer students means the school gets less money.
I have to spend $24 every month to take public transportation. My parents give me $5 every week for allowance and I have to save it for the bus instead of spending it on what I wanted. At first I was angry because school buses are safer than taking public transportation. When I interviewed my principal, Joshua Hartford, he told me that the school gets about $500,000 less every year because of budget cuts. “We simply no longer have the $60,000 per bus that it costs to transport students,” he said. To still have school buses “we would had have to lay off teachers,” he said. After I talked to my principal, I understood his choice. The state lawmakers shouldn’t cut from schools, instead they should cut from prisons.
I used to wake up around 6:30 a.m. because the school bus would arrive at the bus stop around 7:30 a.m. My alarm clock now wakes me up at 6 a.m. for school, which starts at 8. I am at the bus stop around 7 to make sure I get to school on time because the bus is sometimes late. Usually the bus takes 15-20 minutes, depending on how many people are getting off, in comparison to the school bus, which took 10-15 minutes.
I decided to interview my classmates to find out how they felt about bus cuts.
Senior Clarisa Fijar said she has less time to do homework, attend church meetings or run errands because it takes about an hour to get home. Senior Diana Aldana said it is harder for her to stay after school because she does not want to go alone on the bus.
Senior Milagros Castillo, whose neighborhood school is Lincoln High School, wakes up at 5:43 a.m. and takes the Metro Gold Line, Purple Line or Red Line, and finally the Blue Line. She said it is stressful. “My body goes against waking early but in my mind I want to go to school.”
Milagros said strangers ask her if she wants to buy weed. “Three different times one day a guy tried to harass me and I felt scared and upset because I could not even do anything even though my brother was there,” Milagros said.
We have to worry about getting home safe, because we know our community is not safe. One day when senior Jose Del Toro was heading home from school, he said, “Some guy wanted my iPod and pointed a gun to me but there was a cop and arrested him.”
Jose felt scared because he did not know what to do. He said he was scared to take the bus but he had to deal with it because he liked the school, otherwise he would have to attend to Jefferson High School. He changed his route so that wouldn’t happen again.
Even though I had to wake up early and worry about having money for the bus, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make because the school did so much for me. It helped me go to college.
In middle school I had Ds and Fs and had to take summer school all the time. At Animo, I got As, Bs and some Cs. When I was in ninth grade, they had us write down what classes we were doing badly in and to reflect on how we were going to bring our grades up. In 11th grade, they had math SAT prep and English SAT prep. There was another class where we’d research colleges and majors and it helped us narrow down the schools we want to go to. Senior year they helped us with applications and filling out the FAFSA.
Education now is a cost instead of a privilege. It worries me that many students are not getting what they need because there are no school buses, no music class, fewer teachers, no equipment and fewer reasons to attend school.