The Chancellor's letter of 11/18/11 is painting a picture of rogue workers trying to deny our kids a ride to school for no good reason, but our experience has been that it is the DOE's own Office of Pupil Transportation which puts both the children/families and the drivers/escorts in a bad situation every year with route cuts, unnecessarily long rides, and other abuses. Families are now being thrown into turmoil with false media rumors that a strike will start on the 21st.
An Employee Protection Provision is something parents support because we want trained, experienced and decently paid workers handling the youngest children with disabilities. This EPP has been in the K-12 contracts since 1979; it didn't cover pre-K only because pre-K wasn't universal at the time. This summer, both houses in Albany passed a bill to extend EPP to pre-Kindergarten and Early Intervention busing, but Cuomo vetoed it at Bloomberg's request.
Nobody wants a strike, but PIST members who I have heard from are willing to join ATU 1181 picket lines in support of a fair deal for the workers AND the kids in the long run.
We have no reason to trust the DOE to come through with carfare and Metrocards--these are things parents often ask for in crises caused by OPT mismanagement of busing, which are routinely denied. It would be hypocritical of Bloomberg's appointees at Tweed to suddenly find the money and staff to figure this out, now that it is a question of opposing advancement of union rights.
In any case, Metrocards and cabs are no substitute for a yellow bus with a trained escort, especially not for children in wheelchairs or with visual impairment, for instance, nor for 8 to 10 year olds whose parents are not even covered by this hypothetical plan.
We contend that our children need a School Bus Bill of Rights with transportation overseen by those with the most at stake: families, educators and bus workers.