Report from Parent Speak out 2/21/13

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:39:00 AM
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The strike was a confrontation between the business approach of the mayor which is that ‘companies should be able to hire whoever they want’ versus the union’s approach that ‘experience counts’.  The use of replacements and the attempted lockouts show that if given a chance, many companies will go for less-qualified people who they can pay less.  PIST believes it is necessary to have Employee Protection Provisions, among other standards for what constitutes good busing. 

If the DOE wants to save money it can try for $175 M per year in Medicaid reimbursements rather than cheapen this important and legally mandated service. See http://www.uft.org/testimony/cost-pupil-transportation

On Thursday February 21, 2013, about fifty parents and others attended an evening Speak Out on the Bus Strike sponsored by the Citywide Council on Special Education and the ARISE Coalition at Brooklyn Borough Hall.  PIST had four people there; a fifth was waylaid by problems with Access-A-Ride.   One of the statements we gave (Sara’s) is attached. 

Parent advocates from Common Sense Busing, JCC-Manhattan, RCSN, D75 Council, and PTA presidents joined individual parents in denouncing the city’s lack of a plan to meet our children’s educational needs before, during and after the strike. 

Above all there was righteous anger that Chancellor Walcott as of Monday was still bragging about supposedly saving $60 million through the strike.  There were many examples given of children who regressed by missing school and therapies; of families set back financially by the city’s failure to prevent or resolve the strike. 

DOE representatives from the Division of Special Education and from Office of Pupil Transportation defensively claimed that the number of District 75 students who missed all 17 school days during the strike was 1,250.  However if the roster for D75 is 23,000 and (taking the figures cited Thursday) if the average D75 attendance is 85% but was under 75% throughout the strike, then 10% or 2,300 missed school each day. 

This does not count absences in D1-D32, which are not sorted by bus riders (including general education) and non bus riders, or in charter or non-public schools or Yeshivas also served by OPT.  While DOE claims that it has now requested data from the non-public specialized schools, there was no mention of surveying community schools.  PIST knows from our own members with children with Autism that they tended to miss about a day a week due to being overwhelmed by the change in routine and/or by the sensory assault of riding crowded mass transit systems.  As Milagros added, the quality of therapy sessions was gone when the student arrived soaking wet from walking long distances to school in rain and snow. 

We also know that children regularly missed hours due to difficult commutes in the morning and/or having to be picked up early in the afternoon so that siblings could be picked up on time.  We know that adults lost hours and days of work.  Everyone should be documenting all of this!  To summarize, whatever DOE ‘saved’ came at the price of our children’s educational and related services and our family incomes. 

Thus far the DOE’s only plan for restoring missed related service sessions is to have (overworked) therapists at the school evaluate each child in their caseload to determine how much help they actually need (!) and then provide extra sessions on lunch hour and after school.  This will possibly be handled differently at private schools where attendance was only 30%, gee thanks.  In other words, NO PLAN. 

Several members at the panel expressed the end of whatever trust they had in DOE to genuinely include students with disabilities equally with other students.  Please read and comment on this: http://www.schoolbook.org/2013/02/21/bus-strike-took-huge-toll-on-special-needs-kids/

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