Families, unions, electeds and advocates rally and march for a ‘School Bus Bill of Rights’
On Saturday March 19, dozens rallied in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park before marching over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Department of Education (DOE), to highlight the need for systemic reform in student transportation. The crowd of sixty or so included families, groups of paraprofessionals and teachers, several delegates from the largest NYC school bus union, environmentalists, and other advocates. ASL interpretation for the Deaf community was done by Katie Peacock Heale.
Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST NYC) founder Sara Catalinotto: We’re here because we want the young people to know that people care if, when, and how they get to school. The rules about busing are not made by the people who have to live with it. The School Bus Bill of Rights campaign seeks to give power to Disability leaders, parent/caregiver leaders, worker leaders and school leaders over decisions about student transportation.
Advocate for Disabilities Christopher D. Greif, referring to the program for students who are ready to learn how to ride mass transit alone: Travel training shouldn’t be stopped; it should be an option, but meanwhile we need the school buses to get the kids with and without disabilities to school. I want to thank the unions who do the hard work, even in Covid and snowstorms. Let’s work together and get a School Bus Bill of Rights.
Amalgamated Transit Union local 1181-1061 Recording Secretary Tomas Fret: We need the DOE to step up and route these routes correctly for our children to get to school safely, on time. We need E.P.P. (Employee Protection Provisions) to make this a career again. We need a School Bus Bill of Rights.
State Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon: It’s when everybody comes together, and puts their needs, thoughts, skills, and experiences on the table, that we can come up with a School Bus Bill of Rights that reflects what our needs are–and make the improvements…We need this to be a part of every budget conversation, every education, environmental, and transportation conversation.
Bronx mom Monica Roman: It took for my daughter to be in the newspaper, on the front page in October, to get her busing–after all the money I spent on cabs, because she has a disability that makes walking to school too hard.
Kathy Park Price, Transportation Alternatives activist and former Panel for Educational Policy member: Student transportation, environmental and social justice are all connected.
Justin Wood, Policy Director for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, part of the Electrify NY Coalition: Across New York State, there are disproportionate numbers of students with disabilities, workers, and environmental justice neighborhoods breathing the emissions from fifty thousand dirty diesel, outdated school buses. NYC needs funding from the state to transition to electric buses by 2035.
Education Council Consortium statement, read by Lupe Hernandez of District 2: We still have thousands of students unable to participate in Special Education Recovery Services (SERS) because there is still no transportation in place to transport students back home from these after school programs. We…demand…that all students eligible for pupil transportation be treated with respect and dignity, and we demand oversight and accountability from the Office Of Pupil Transportation (OPT).
Deputy Public Advocate for Education and Opportunity Elizabeth Kennedy, on behalf of NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams (whose office has been collecting school bus complaints): These issues have been here long before the pandemic. They look like staffing shortages; doubled up routes; crowding; lack of PPE for the workers; and students having longer rides than ever before.
Milagros Cancel, president Timon Family Services: We need a law that protects the rights of the students and the E.P.P. of the workers – that is what will change the problems of busing.
Amy Tsai, Community Council for District 75: For the 26,000 students in District 75, and all other students with disabilities that require transportation, it is a related service under law, not a privilege. Families are in desperate need of a change.
Charles Jenkins, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, New York Chapter: Our children are suffering with inadequate transportation to get to school to learn–breathing in fumes that are harmful to the mind–while the bus companies rake in millions and billions of dollars. CBTU is committed to working on this issue with you.
Paullette Healy, representing NYC Councilmember Alexa Aviles: 85% of District 75 students are bused. If the DOE fails to get our kids to school, they fail altogether. $1.6 billion was allocated for school transportation last year, and yet more children are not able to get to school than ever before. Where is the accountability?
Lucas, District 75 student: If we can’t get to school safely, how can we learn? Transit equity for all!
Gloria Brandman, Retiree Advocate/UFT: As a special educator, I spent time putting transportation services in the Individualized Education Plans (IEP)-- legal documents–but then spent more time on the phone with OPT and companies trying to get the services, and with parents wondering where the bus is.
Maggie Sanchez, Protect NYC Special Education: There shouldn’t be a shortage of bus paraprofessionals, drivers or matrons, because New York State and City has received lots of funding. Where’s it going? Show us the data that you cannot provide E.P.P. for the drivers.
Also represented were 350 NYC, the Coalition to Finally End Mayoral Control, Haiti Liberte newspaper (which also provided Kreyol translation for flyers and publicized the event in print), Struggle/La Lucha newspaper, Bronx Autism Family Support, Lower East Side Community Partnership Project, and longtime Citywide Council on Special Education member Ellen McHugh. United Federation of Teachers Brooklyn Parent and Community Outreach liaison Tesa Wilson gave out water bottles, and her Queens counterpart Delci Rodriguez donated hand sanitizer. City University of New York students who formerly had IEPs volunteered for first aid and filming, coordinated by PIST NYC co-founder Johnnie Stevens.
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Audio and video of the rally https://www.facebook.com/pistnyc/videos/1113672256152499
Part of the group at Tweed building Photo: Eleonora Francica
Delegation from school bus union ATU 1181 Photo: Facebook of Anthony Cordiello