WHY IS THE SAFETY OF OUR CHILDREN UP FOR BIDDING?
We are parents who organize other parents to demand better conditions for the education and transportation of students with and without disabilities.
We do not accept “cost cutting” as a reason to force children onto long, twisted bus routes that stop at too many schools; routes that make many children miss school breakfast, classes, Related Services and/or Extended Day. We are sick and tired of violations of legally mandated transportation accommodations—such as limited time travel and climate control—that cause kids with special needs to arrive physically and mentally drained to school and home: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news%2Feducation&id=8816875
We are fearful of inadequate equipment on wheelchair buses. We want more, not less training for bus crews. We are angry at the lack of policies for separating teens from little kids on specialized transportation. We think it’s hypocrisy for the DOE to suddenly start documenting bus evacuation drills that we have been demanding for two years (http://www.pistnyc.org/bill-of-rights.aspx) but have yet to witness.
At this time the authorities, from Governor Cuomo to Mayor Bloomberg to Chancellor Walcott—who have never reached out to parents like us about the above concerns—are speaking and acting in favor of more “cost cutting” in the yellow bus system.
They are attempting to establish contracts for pre-K without the job protection and related benefits that all bus workers in K-12 have had for more than thirty years, known as Employee Protection Provisions or EPP. This would set a precedent for the other age groups to eventually lose these protections also.
We disagree because the working conditions of bus drivers, escorts, and mechanics are the riding conditions of our children.
EPP = SAFETY! Having people with industry-wide seniority follow the work when different companies win bids means the adults on the bus: know what they are doing, are trained in emergency first aid, and are less afraid to point out potential safety hazards to their boss. School bus drivers should be able to support themselves without a second job, and to retire before their reflexes slow down.
EPP = STABILITY because a decent wage and benefits package means lower turnover and less burnout. Children who see familiar adults on the bus over the years feel safer and behave better.
EPP = BEST PRACTICES. School bus companies are in business to make money, so a contract without enough funding for training, dry runs, equipment, repairs and maintenance will pressure them to lower standards. Don’t our children deserve safe, quality service?
EPP is not only for the union. IT IS OUR TAXES AND RESOURCES BEING PUT TOWARDS ALL CHILDREN’S EDUCATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS!
When we read NYCDOE messages, we remember their record of downplaying the importance of school bus conditions to ensure these rights.
In September, when Autistic three-year-olds had three- and four-hour bus rides with inexperienced ‘competitive bid’ companies, Bloomberg said, “My understanding is they’re actually doing a pretty good job.” (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/09/11/cbs-2-gets-action-in-outcry-over-nyc-special-needs-bus-problems/)
In October, when parents, Deaf students and educators, and school bus union leaders began to testify at Council Member Robert Jackson’s Oversight Hearing on School Busing, the DOE officials walked out. (http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/10/parents_of_special-needs_children.php; http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Parents-of-Special-Needs-Students-Frustrated-over-School-Bus-Problems-173583021.html)
In November after Sandy, authorities rushed to reopen schools—even those without heat or with mental health shelters inside. Following Cuomo’s executive order (http://www.governor.ny.gov/executiveorder/65) to drop regulations on vehicles and drivers, they placed students from the hard-hit areas on casino-style buses (http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121116/new-york-city/city-turns-coach-buses-shuttle-kids-from-schools-closed-by-sandy#ixzz2G7VY6L64).
With the NYSED regulations gone until further notice, EPP may be the only regulation on busing services that is in effect at this time!
In December, with families still reeling from Sandy and Sandy Hook about to begin winter break, the NYCDOE admitted in writing that they want to cut the cost of employing people who provide a vital service to 15% of schoolchildren: yellow school bus drivers, matrons/attendants, and mechanics. The authorities appear willing to risk a legal strike at the cost of our children’s ability to get to school. (http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/Transportation/default ) UNACCEPTABLE!
The new bid proposal even recommends busing general and special education students together in 2015, despite the concerns of parent leaders. (http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/special_ed_bus_kid_mix_en_route_gjavbRvbC4q6HTt0VYKQ6L?utm_medium=rss&utm_content=Local)
Of the two parties to the union contract, we have found that it is the union who agrees with parents on not wanting to throw away standards, while the authorities seek to sell our children’s safety to the lowest bidder.
Please contact us for more on how and where to protest this type of bidding. Parents should not be the last to know what goes on in bid meetings that involve children’s lives. You can also call 311 today and tell the mayor you support EPP.
Parents to Improve School Transportation Facebook: PIST NYC
firstname.lastname@example.org 347-504-3310 (se habla español) Twitter: @pistnyc