Field Trip via Party Bus Brings Issues with Education System to Light

Ava Orofino, Scarlet Staff

Anyone who has attended public school knows the excitement of riding a big yellow school bus with those infamous leather seats. Whether it be on a corny school trip or transportation to school, students of all ages have had memorable moments sitting on a charter bus heading to whatever adventure awaited them. However, one particular group of high school students may have had a more memorable experience than most.  

On September 22nd of this year, Jim Mayers, an eleventh-grade language and composition teacher at the Brook Charter School in Boston, MA, decided to take his students on a field trip to lift their spirits at the beginning of the school year. However, the fun was soon interrupted when a party bus showed up rather than the normal – big yellow – school bus. The story was brought to light after Mayers  lightheartedly tweeted about the incident. The tweet has  since been deleted, but not before the press got wind of it. He explained in a follow-up tweet: “I’m worried that there is too much attention being paid to the tweet itself, or simply the fact that it went viral, instead of attending to the many systematic issues that are facing not just my students but students all across the country.” He urged students, faculty, and parents to speak up and attend school committee meetings to fix this major, structural problem.  

As hilarious as this situation is, it also demonstrates just how flawed and under-funded the American education system is. 

This is not the only school facing this issue.  Apparently, according to the Huffington Post, districts across the nation are struggling with the same concerns of having a lack of school buses and drivers to get their kids to school. In Massachusetts, National Guard members have been hired to transport vans back and forth to schools. How terrifying is that to a child for an enlisted member of the military to be driving them to school every day? They certainly don’t seem like they’d be as friendly as a school bus driver should be, especially to elementary school kids. 

Schools and buses are just the tips of the severely under-funded iceberg, though. Teachers often have to purchase some of their crucial resources for the classroom as the schools regularly cannot afford to replace or buy them. A high school AP English teacher states, “I wish every class had current, relevant books and tech resource subscriptions that get renewed each year. A lot of the websites and apps we use are free, but the pro subscriptions offer so much more than we have and would help immensely.” It’s something that seems so small, but could be a major help to all teachers, as well as enhance the learning experience and education of the students. Another teacher explained “ I truly cannot afford to spend what I do on school supplies, but I continue to do so for the benefit of the students in my classroom. Often, I am forced to charge items on my credit card, and I find myself in a position where I am paying extensive interest on items from years prior.”  The resources that these teachers are providing for their students, more often than not, come out of their own pocket from the small paycheck they get biweekly. “There is no single profession that I can think of where employees use their paychecks to purchase materials that they need to complete their jobs effectively,” an eighth-grade science teacher reminds non-educators. 

Teaching is one of the most underpaid professions in the world, as well as one where educators work harder and longer than most of the other professions that pay more. Not only are they expected to arrive at the school at ungodly hours of the morning, but many of them also stay  much later in the day than most students. These extra hours could be anything from proctoring an after-school club, offering extra-help for students that may need it, or long faculty meetings. Besides the actual paid hours, many read papers, grade assignments, plan their upcoming weeks and assignments and answer student emails well after they have clocked out for the day. Not to mention those who go the extra mile and help students through non-school-related activities and situations. In Massachusetts, the average pay is $17.74 an hour, which is roughly $50,000 a year. 

A professional ice cream taster makes $6,000 more than teachers do yearly.

And teachers do so much more than educate students five days a week; they are mentors and heroes to students, just by taking the extra step, rather than just sitting in a classroom and lecturing. They are patient, organized, diligent, loving, and are passionate about their students and their job, despite the financial and social struggles they may have in their personal lives. But it might not be enough for them anymore; being treated and paid unfairly might lead them to their breaking point. 

All of this leads us to the question: why is the K-12 public education system a requirement for the young people of the United States, but is one of the most underfunded programs in the country?  

Simple. The money is not being handled properly and not being distributed to the right places. Several administration members make quite a bit of money that does not always align with their duties and responsibilities, as well as the hours they put into their work. Some teachers argue that some of the money going into the paychecks of the “higher-ups” should be spent elsewhere. Now, administration officials like principals and superintendents work hard and do have difficult jobs, but teachers work harder and longer. Additionally, many of these “higher-ups” don’t agree with the views of some teachers on their payroll, nor do they support teachers fighting for a better paycheck and better supplies. In one school district, teachers are outright banned from fundraising for themselves and the classroom, considering it “bad optics” to ask parents to provide school supplies for the classroom. Borderline ridiculous, right? The teachers don’t get paid enough, nor are they provided with the materials they need, but God forbid they stand up for themselves and try to find ways to purchase education materials without digging into their own paychecks. 

Even the community frowns upon them when they ask for donations, as “the taxes should be going into the supplies”. Which makes a bit of sense, but the accusation is false. Many teachers go through hundreds of dollars worth of supplies a year. Consumable items like paper, pencils, white out, and coloring supplies are provided by the teachers themselves each year and often have to be replaced multiple times throughout. Also, going through 50-100 pencils a week really does make a difference, so students being able to purchase and provide their own school supplies when possible is a major help. Students being respectful of school supplies and property could also go quite a long way, for both the teacher’s budget, and the school’s. One frustrated teacher states: “For every screen shattered, charger lost, that is money taken away from the budget that could be better used elsewhere. For every toilet, soap dispenser, or school signage ripped off walls, that is money taken away from the budget that can be used elsewhere.” It is something that seems so small, but added up, it does some significant damage.  

Obviously, this is an issue that must be explored further and can only be resolved with patience and care from everyone. The education system is well underfunded, and the teachers are taking the brunt of it. Most teachers, like Jim Mayers, understand and are increasingly frustrated  by how little money they receive to educate their students and fulfill the requirements of their job. However, this is not the only issue with the American education system today. To speak on that will, unfortunately, take more than fifteen hundred words published in a student-run college newspaper. But, providing more funds to school districts and teachers would be a step in the right direction. Donate to your schools, vote in the local school elections, thank your teachers, do more to help your school community, because they need it more than ever.  Additionally, if you were worried about the school trip, the field trip ended up being a success, despite the party bus used.