The American school bus took center stage in the Sept. 20 issue of TIME Magazine amid a discussion of "What Makes a School Great." The focus is on how the country can fix education. Now bring the school bus into the conversation rather than simply seeing it used as a prop.
In all, the school bus makes three appearances in TIME: on the cover, in the table of contents and on the first page of the article "A Call to Action for Public Schools" that explores the new documentary Waiting for 'Superman" by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim of An Inconvenient Truth fame. Waiting for 'Superman' is a long-awaited movie that talks about the challenges of education reform.
It came as no surprise that school buses were not mentioned anywhere in the TIME special section "National Service | Schools" that consists of three articles on the subject of education reform. Such a logical leap from school buses to education misses most citizens; yet, as the pupil transportation industry knows (or should), school buses can be vital to a student's ability to learn.
As we've written previously, the yellow school bus has become synonymous with education nationwide, as seen in pop culture and television ads. The little red school house and the apple on the teacher's desk have given way to the icon of school buses. But something is still missing.
If children can't get to school in the first place, that presents a very big obstacle to improving the nation's educational achievement and bringing the United States on par with or surpassing other industrialized countries. A lack of transportation options, the safest of which is provided on school buses recognized by the federal government as the safest way to get children to and from school, affects students from all walks of life: those who live in rural communities, children with disabilities, homeless students, inner-city students, and those in the suburbs.
But school busing is more than a convenience for parents and students alike, however. While there have been some isolated programs in places like Deming, N.M., and Bradenton, Fla., that promote school buses as an extension of the classroom, not enough has been done within the industry to make the connection for parents, teachers, school administrators, policy makers and tax payers alike. As TIME reports, 69 percent of eighth-graders score below proficient in reading. How can the school bus ride time, which many parents and educators continue to express concern about, be better utilized as learning time?
As school budgets continue to be squeezed, with transportation often placed back on the chopping block, the question remains: how can the industry better get out in front of the educational issue and become part of conversations like those that take place this week in TIME Magazine?