School bus drivers don't strike, but threat still looms

January 8, 2013 3:51:48 AM PST
School buses in New York City are still rolling, but the threat of a strike still looms. And that could mean a change of plans for more than 150,000 students later this week.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott says the union is playing with the lives of parents and students, including 54,000 children with disabilities.

"I really think the union should stop playing games and issuing threats of striking and saying, well we may strike this particular day or we may strike that day," he said.

Walcott says the city is trying to save money by putting the bus contracts up for bid, marking the first time the Department of Education has done that in 33 years. But the union says the bidding rules don't require the winners to keep using its veteran drivers.

City Councilman Robert Jackson, chair of the education committee, says this is really about job protection.

"The employee protection plan had been in the contract for decades," he said. "It's not new."

The DOE says the cost of school bus service has soared to $1.1 billion each year, which is close to $7,000 for each student on a bus. That makes this the most expensive school bus ride in the country.

But the union asks, how do you put a price on safety and experience?

"All we say is put the employee protection provision in," Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello said. "The bid shouldn't save money on the backs of experienced workers who provide safe bus service."

Union officials say that while the drivers reserve the right to strike at any time, they will give parents enough notice to make alternate plans.

The city has put contingency plans in place in case of a walkout.

As a precaution, the Department of Education has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying MetroCards to give to students to use if there is a strike.

Companies that operate yellow buses have also been preparing by posting job ads seeking replacement workers.

Walcott is encouraging families with children who receive yellow bus service to prepare alternative transportation plans.

"The union is asking for something we cannot legally deliver and are putting a central and necessary service at risk," 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."

In the event of a strike, the city will take the following steps 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,, 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 Information will also be available at 311.

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