As a result of bankruptcy proceedings by the Atlantic Express corporation, the continuation of over 1,400 school bus routes on January 2 is up in the air. This directly affects thousands of children and 2,000 NYC drivers and matrons, yet there has been no communication from DOE to school bus families.
With no guarantee of job protection, local companies have less incentive to bid on the routes because the Atlantic contracts with the city expire in 18 months or less. At this point, not even 500 routes have been bought out by other school bus companies.
LOSS OF EXPERIENCED NYC SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS & ATTENDANTS IN 2013
January: In a memo dated 1/22/13, DOE’s Contracts Division authorized companies to replace striking attendants with extra drivers, without providing comprehensive 7-day training including Red Cross First Aid/CPR and modules on Students with Disabilities developed with the input of citywide parent councils.
Companies took Mayor Bloomberg’s invitation to submit low bids, without the traditional Employee Protection Provisions that allow senior workers to follow the work from one company to another as the routes change hands. This occurred despite the strike of 8800 drivers warning that such a change would be destructive to safety and quality standards.
NY City Council’s Education and Finance Committees heard testimony that only half of local busing is paid for out of city monies, that only 55% of the cost of school busing goes toward labor despite fifty years of EPP, and that the DOE qualifies for Medicaid reimbursement for specialized transportation (as with other related services on the Individualized Education Plan of a student with a disability).
Democratic mayoral candidates wrote to ATU 1181 that they would revisit the issue of seniority hiring if elected. As the strike ended, Tufaro and Rainbow locked out 74 experienced people; several of these workers took early retirement.
In public meetings, parents of students with disabilities condemned the City’s lack of responsiveness to the realities of their children’s needs before and during the strike. Mr. Walcott and Mr. Bloomberg boasted of $80 M saved in those 4.5 weeks.
Late April: Chancellor Walcott opened bidding on 1,700 route contracts to begin September 2014 and 1,400 for Summer 2014, again without EPP. (These can still be revoked and rebid with EPP by the new administration).
May: The mayor’s Panel on Education Policy approved low bids (from Feb.) on 1100 special education routes for the period starting Fall 2013 over audience protest.
June: 2000 experienced matrons and drivers on the affected routes were permanently terminated from their companies. (As of today some 300 have been rehired. The majority of the rest are now retired and/or collecting unemployment).
July: Parents, bus drivers and matrons, and elected officials lobbied at City Hall for respect and stability for riders and workers via the Enhanced Training and EPP, now pending in Albany as S 5848 / A 8060. Resources for Children with Special Needs helped state legislators develop the bill.
Companies that won the Feb. bids advertised for jobs. A parent calling each number listed was told that no experience was necessary; that attendant training would be held on the last two weekends prior to Labor Day weekend (4 days at a cost of $350 to the applicant); and “if you show up for the training you get the job.” Some of the ads announced pay for matrons at $300-$325/week.
Atlantic Express workers reported that the company condensed (merged) routes to keep costs low, making them more competitive for future bids but longer and more crowded for children.
Thousands of route complaints arrived to Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) and to Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST). A smaller sampling of parents, who were informed and willing, also submitted complaints of IEP violations in busing for intervention by Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel.
As routes were added to alleviate problems and to catch up with changes in enrollment, some 300 senior drivers and matrons were rehired. To this day, our students are deprived of the skill, knowledge and bonds the other 1,700 had developed over many years.
Complaints about non-existent routes, frequent changes of driver, and buses not waiting for children or parents, lack of training, and unprofessionalism are occurring in conjunction with companies’ wages and benefits dropping to a new low and there is no overtime pay.
12/17/13: Today, DOE held a pre-bid conference regarding bids due in May 2014 on another 4000 routes.
Tonight, representatives of parent organizations are being joined by school bus union ATU 1181 to call for a reversal of systematic shedding of experienced school transportation professionals. Supporters reiterate that school busing is a vital public service protected by federal disability rights law and state education law, that should not be compromised for ideological, financial and profit considerations.
Prepared by Parents to Improve School Transportation 12/16/13
Busing by the Numbers
Number of NYC school children 1.1 million[i]
DOE Budget $24.8 billion [ii]
OPT Budget $1.3 billion [iii]
(Please note that the State reimburses the DOE for 59.5% of its approved busing expenditures for EIS and special education pre-K busing and approximately 50% for K-12 busing, so for city expenditure purposes you can subtract those numbers[iv])
Number of school children bused 160.000[v]
Number of students transported with disabilities 65,133iv
Number of total routes 7,700v
Number of special education routes 4,600[vi]
Number of drivers and escorts 14,000v
% of budget for general education students 20%iii
% of budget for special education students 63%iii
% of budget for EIS and special education pre-K 11%iii
Average cost per pupil using total # of pupils $1,033[vii]
(Average spending in the rest of the state is $1,141 per pupil)
Average cost per pupil using actual # of children $6,900vii
Average cost per pupil with disabilities $16,000iv
Average approximate salary of a bus driver
with EPP provisions and three years experience : $42,000 (based on a 44 week year)[viii]
Average approximate yearly salary of a bus attendant
with EPP provisions and three years experience : $23,000 (based on a 44 week year)viii
CURRENT SITUATION: AE has filed for bankruptcy and is closing on December 20th, 2013.
AE handles 1400 routes in NYC. 500 routes have been bought during an auction last week. That leaves 900 routes that, as far as we know, will not be serviced come January 2nd, 2013.
OPT, SHOW US YOUR PLAN!
[iii] Briefing Paper of the Human Services Division, Robert Newman, Legislative Director -oversight – School Bus Service in NYC, is DOE meeting the need. October 10, 2012
[iv] Briefing Paper of the Human Services Division, Robert Newman, Legislative Director – Oversight: The Cost of Pupil Transportation in NYC – February 8, 2013
[v] Testimony of the NYC DOE on Pupil Transportation, Kathleen Grimm, Deputy Chancellor, October 10, 2012
[vi] Report “Doing Less with More” how school transportation is failing students and taxpayers. Office of Bill de Blasio. October 2011https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1 - 1430191e52d53073__ednref
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1 - 1430191e52d53073__ednref [vii] NYC Comptroller John C.Liu – testimony on “The Cost of Pupil transportation in NYC” NYC Council Education and Finance Committees Joint Oversight Hearing – Friday, February 8th, 2013
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1 - 1430191e52d53073__ednref [viii] The Council of the City of NY Office of Council Member Robert Jackson, Press Release, January 23rd, 2013
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1 - 1430191e52d53073__ednref