Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott updated parents and families today on the possible bus drivers’ union strike that could happen as early as Monday, January 7, and encouraged families with children who receive yellow bus service to prepare alternative transportation plans. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott have outlined the steps the City will take to assist families if bus service is interrupted, including robo-calling affected families, and providing MetroCards and reimbursements for those who must drive or use a car service. A system-wide strike would impact more than 152,000 students, 54,000 of whom have disabilities and require special transportation services. The Chancellor spoke at the Department of Education (DOE) and was joined by School Support Services CEO Eric Goldstein.
“The union is asking for something we cannot legally deliver and are putting a central and necessary service at risk,” Chancellor Walcott said. “A strike would be irresponsible and would adversely impact our students and their families who rely on bus service to get to and from school. As the City continues to take all possible precautions in advance of a potential strike, we are asking parents to make a plan in the event that busing is disrupted.”
Last month, the DOE released the first competitive bids for school-age yellow bus contracts to be issued in 33 years. In that time, the costs 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 current contracts are set to expire on June 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.
The union – Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union – has threatened to strike because the contract bid specifications did not include job guarantees for certain current drivers, but the New York 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 for pre-kindergarten bus contracts 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.
In the event of a strike, the following protocols will take effect for 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 grades K through 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.
- In the unfortunate event that students cannot get to school, 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.