PIST opening talk Feb 4

Posted by Sara Friday, February 04, 2022 3:01:00 PM
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We are Parents to Improve School Transportation, also known as PIST NYC. Before the overview of topics that others will give details about, I feel we need to acknowledge two truths. 

One, this day is Rosa Parks Day, this week is Black Lives Matter At School Week, and this month is Black History Month. The civil rights that we’re discussing in terms of students with disabilities and Students in Temporary Housing owe everything to the African American battle for equal access that Rosa Parks exemplifies. We know that all our children benefit from the work that was done in the past.

    Two, this is a stormy cold day and we have the luxury to speak from indoors, while school bus workers are out there navigating extreme weather. We appreciate those school bus workers who are on their jobs today, and this year, despite all the difficulties, and doing their best to deliver the children with compassion. 

 

We are gathering on Rosa Parks’ birthday with other caregivers, individuals, advocates, and allies in Labor and the community, to say that access to education is a Civil and Human right for children of all abilities and all housing circumstances. Transit equity, including safe, on-time, fully staffed school bus routes, is crucial to that access. 

This fall, PIST and others who receive complaints about school buses found that fully half of those complaints had to do with buses that did not show up at all. Communication from the authorities is often non-existent, or insulting, or false. There is inequity in getting information or solutions on routes, depending on how much time, internet access and computer savvy a family has, and in what language they are fluent. 

The school bus worker shortage pre-dates this pandemic. We and the unions predicted -ten years ago- that cuts to their pay and “E.P.P” job protections would drive many from the workforce. Then during remote learning in Spring 2020, the city laid off every driver and attendant, instead of using them to deliver food and supplies. Due to this and other bungling, disabled youth lacked bus routes for the first half of their legally mandated summer services.  

We also need more bus paras and nurses, without whom certain children cannot board the bus, even if one shows up. 

 

    We are still fighting for a School Bus Bill of Rights referendum on the November 2022 ballot, to demand an approach to busing that prioritizes people’s needs. Rosa Parks taught us not to give in just because the system has been so abusive for so long. In a pandemic, forcing children from multiple schools onto long rides with no social distancing, and making drivers do double routes, interferes with schooling, creates suffering, and complicates tracing. It has to change!

    PIST is forming a broader coalition to take this cause to the streets and the ballots. On Saturday, March 19th, which falls in Women’s History Month, Disability Awareness/Acceptance Month, and according to our school department it’s Respect For All month, we will march across the Brooklyn Bridge to pressure both the Department of Education and City Hall to take responsibility for school busing as a public service! We want them to use Covid Relief funding to increase both the pay and the pandemic control measures. We hope all of you will join us to say: 

1, 2, 3, Pay the workers what they need!

4, 5, 6, Transportation we must fix

7, 8, 9, Get the kids to school on time!

 

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