2013-01-16 / Front Page

Students Stranded?

DuPreVinnyPhoto DuPreVinnyPhoto Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott announced new measures that the city will take as a result of the recent decision by yellow school bus drivers to strike.

“With its regrettable decision to strike, the union is abandoning 152,000 students and their families who rely on school bus service each day,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “As Chancellor [Dennis] Walcott and I have said, the City will take all steps available to ensure that those who are impacted have the support they need, and we are now activating the protocols we put in place in the event of a strike. Let me be clear: the union’s decision to strike has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with job protections that the city legally cannot include in its bus contracts. We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students’ education.”

The NYPD will add more transit officers and more crossing guards to help manage the anticipated increase in the number of students using public transportation and walking to school. Additional school safety officers will also be deployed to public schools. The Taxi and Limousine Commission will issue an alert to all licensees to anticipate increased demand and have the maximum number of cars available.

School offices will distribute MetroCards to students who use yellow bus service, and reimbursements will be available for families who must drive or use a car service. A system-wide strike would impact the morning and afternoon commute of more than 152,000 students, 54,000 of whom have disabilities and require special transportation services.

“Though the city cannot legally do what the bus drivers’ union wants, they are threatening a strike that would impact our students and families,” said Walcott on January 13. “The city is prepared to provide those who use yellow bus service with the support they need, and put other resources to use if a strike is called. Our goal is to make sure students get to school, and to pursue contracts that are safe and more reasonably priced, so that we can direct those savings in the classroom where they belong.”

Last month, the city released competitive bids for school-age yellow bus contracts, most of which have not been bid out in 33 years. Since then, the cost of bus service has skyrocketed to $1.1 billion each year, an average of $6,900 per bused student, making it the most expensive in the country. The request for new bids covers contracts for approximately 1,100 routes, which serve 22,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have disabilities and require special transportation. The DOE previously released bids for pre-kindergarten bus contracts, which resulted in a savings of $95 million over five years, and hopes that a re-bid of its remaining contracts will produce additional savings to be spent in classrooms.

The work being bid out is currently covered by contracts that are set to expire on Jun. 30, 2013. In total, the DOE has contracts for 7,700 total bus routes that serve 152,000 students – all of which would be impacted by a system-wide strike.

One of the bus drivers’ unions – Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union –said the reason for the strike is because the contract bid specifications did not include job guarantees for certain current drivers, but the state Court of Appeals ruled that such a guarantee, known as the Employee Protection Provision, could not be included under the circumstances of the bids when the DOE bid the pre-kindergarten routes last year. The circumstances for the bids released last month are essentially the same and the city cannot include the provision that the union has demanded. The bids still include the exact same safety provisions and require that all bus drivers are certified and have completed the mandatory trainings.

The following resources are available to families of students who currently receive yellow bus service:

•All students who currently receive yellow bus service may receive a MetroCard. MetroCards should be requested through the school’s general office. The DOE has informed the Metropolitan Transit Authority that it may need to accommodate additional riders.

•Parents of pre-school and school-age children with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and require transportation from their home directly to their school, as well as parents of general education children in grades K-2, may also request a MetroCard to escort their children to school.

•Parents of children who receive busing from their home or are in K-6 and do not live in areas where public transportation between home and school is available, may request reimbursement for transportation costs. Parents who drive their children to school will be reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile. Parents who use a taxi or car service to transport their child to school will be reimbursed for the trip upon completion of reimbursement forms that includes a receipt for provided services. Requests for reimbursements should be made weekly on forms that will be available on the DOE web site, www.schools.nyc.gov , and in schools’ general offices. Families who plan to drive or use a car service to carpool are encouraged to carpool with their neighbors whenever possible.

•The Department will be posting materials online for every grade and core subject so that students can continue their learning at home during the strike.

The DOE will continue to update New Yorkers about the potential strike and will post new information on www.schools.nyc.gov. Information will also be available at 311.

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