Remarks by the Chancellor as Prepared for Delivery on February 18, 2013
Good morning, I am glad to say that with the union’s agreement to end this strike, their members can return to work and restore the services our students depend on. As the Mayor and I made clear from the start of this process, bidding out these contracts was not only good for our school system, but important for our city and taxpayers.
Last week, the City accepted the first significant bids on school age bus contracts in more than 30 years, with the potential to cut costs, transfer the savings to classrooms and secure better bus service for our students. These new bids will allow us to not only contain soaring costs, but they will also allow for more flexibility in the service we provide, and will contain the same safety provisions and requirements as the old contracts.
It is important for me to emphasize that these contracts will include all the same safety requirements as the current ones – contrary to what has been misstated.
I know this strike was a challenge for many families and our schools, and I want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding. I want to acknowledge my team at the Department of Education who worked hard to get our children to class by identifying alternative ways for students to get to school.
I also want to thank the bus companies, drivers and matrons who helped keep some bus routes in service and continued to increase the number of routes that went out every day. Because of their hard work and dedication to our students, we were able to increase the number of routes that went out by more than 400 by the end of the strike.
Attendance also increased, especially for our most vulnerable students from around 49 percent on the first day of the strike to over 78 percent last week.
We expect full bus service to resume when students return from winter recess on Wednesday, February 20, and we are making robo-calls to families today and tomorrow to notify them that the strike is over and bus service will resume.
Just as with the first day of school and the first days of school after Hurricane Sandy, there may be some disruptions for families and we ask for everyone’s patience and understanding. If there are any questions or concerns, please call 311, or check www.nyc.gov.
Yesterday, I sent the bus companies a letter that communicated my expectation that all bus routes should be running on Wednesday of this week. Over the next couple of days, bus companies must take all necessary measures to ensure that all routes are fully operational. We cannot afford to have students unnecessarily miss another day of school because a yellow bus does not show up.
I fully expect all owners to take the appropriate steps to ensure that fleets have received maintenance checks and inspections. All employees should be contacted to report to work and all certifications should be up to date.
Our students cannot miss any more school and the long weekend and remaining day of winter recess on Tuesday give companies ample time to get up and running.
Students who were assigned a new route as a result of the strike will continue to be served by that route until they hear from the Office of Pupil Transportation. We rerouted approximately 800 special education students during the strike and we will contact each family directly to avoid additional confusion.
There will be over 200 non-public schools that will receive bus service tomorrow. These routes will be covered. Pre-K will also be operating normally as it was during the strike.
Now that yellow bus service is resuming, parents please return any MetroCards you received during the strike to your child’s school. Parent and student Metrocards that were distributed during the strike will expire as of Wednesday, February 20th.
We will continue to accept reimbursement forms for cabs and car service used during the strike as well as reimbursement forms for gas mileage. All reimbursements should be in within the next 30 days. We encourage families to get these forms in as soon as possible so that we can process them and get the payments out.
As we welcome back students with IEPs who were affected by the strike, schools will be working directly with families to provide appropriate additional supports to overcome any interruptions. As always, the process will be focused on each student's individual needs and circumstances. Parents should contact their school to discuss these additional supports.
We are glad to welcome back the drivers and matrons of Local 1181 and look forward to returning to a normal routine for our students.