Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST NYC) Testimony
City Council oversight hearing on busing policy bills - October 16, 2018
The Disability Rights movement says “Nothing about us without us.” We hope you continue to seek input from self-advocates who have been or are school bus riders themselves. When it comes to young children riding the bus, the others who grapple with the issues are their families, educators, and experienced school bus crews. These advocates all have organizations that are easy to find.
Regarding Int 0451-2018 we’re glad Council member Dromm agrees with us about sending home regulations and how-to’s in various languages. School staff could also benefit from such documents. However (1) it has to be refined by the organizations above, who know the frequently asked questions about how busing is done now and (2) it should not be called a Bill of Rights, since we already have a document by that name which shows how busing should be done instead, which we still intend to get on the NYC ballot.
Attached you will find the real School Bus Bill of Rights, which by the way is endorsed by other parent groups and school bus unions (ATU 1181-1061 and Teamsters’ local 553). We have also compiled just a few of the better busing ideas that have gone ignored thus far.
From our statement on the latest OPT scandal, a reminder that “at a 2013 mayoral candidates’ forum, Bill DeBlasio agreed to ‘an independent commission on school busing, with representation from disability advocates, unions, and parent groups, on standards for bidders, routes, safety, training, and fair labor practices.’
From a 2016 report of a 2013 study the DOE funded:
“Existing processes for bus scheduling and routing, for example, did not draw on the day-to-day experiences of bus operators or families and so were much less efficient than they otherwise could be… the field research was distilled into a report recommending three service prototypes to test… However…the prototypes were never implemented.”
Notes from 2015 when a series of meetings were facilitated by the teachers’ union between OPT directors and District 75 parent council, PIST and others. This also talked about training, climate control and “Change the routing system to make it more efficient. Consider one program one bus to cut down on length of transport time, number of buses idling at the school.”
A 2013 letter to the outgoing and incoming administrations by Civil Rights Attorney Norman Siegel recommended better training standards; sensible contracting and routing; and an independent busing liaison -- such as the MTA now has for its riders with disabilities.
We generally support any Intros that address aspects of the problem, but urge that those closest to the situation have the final say in making the solutions meaningful. I leave you with three examples:
GPS is only as good as the thought that goes into it. Drivers are stuck with parameters set by the same corner cutting bureaucrats who think all kids can get from stop to seatbelt in 30 seconds flat--and that a bus can be at three schools in the same minute. Read the letter from PIST mom Nicole from Inwood, and listen to the unions, including TWU who know the limitations of MTA level GPS.
We know two parents and a driver-trainer who’ve become experts on car safety seat models and which ones are compatible with which bus types. I trust their oversight more than I trust budget researchers up in an office.
The best solutions will fail if we don’t have a stable workforce providing this service. Running school busing based on low bids and high profit has left us with a severe driver shortage, and with many workers ready to strike or even quit. We ask this body for support in seeking a meeting between the Chancellor, bus parents, and bus unions, as soon as possible.
2018 PIST statement on the firing of OPT CEO Eric Goldstein at http://www.pistnyc.org/pist-statement-on-latest-opt-scandal.aspx
PIST NYC School Bus Bill of Rights revised October 2017, originally drafted December 2010, also at http://www.pistnyc.org/bill-of-rights.aspx
Letter from Attorney Norman Siegel’s firm November 2013, also at
Excerpts of notes from Parent meetings with Alexandra Robinson of OPT in school year 2015-16.
We refer you also to the following:
2013 parents’ open letter to the DeBlasio administration on our busing issues at
Cover and page 9 of Innovation Toolkit study published 2016, also at https://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/innovationtoolkit_1.2016_final.pdf