Saturday, December 29, 2012

The real issues behind the looming bus strike by Sara Catalinotto of PIST

The Chancellor has warned of a possible school bus strike shortly after students return from the Xmas vacation.  The issues are not obvious to most parents; here is an explanation by Sara Catalinotto of Parents to ImproveSchool Transportation [PIST].  She adds:
1)  Next step in bidding on our kids' buses for next year is Thurs. Jan 3 at 1:00 p.m. at 30-30 Thomson Ave, LIC (next door to OPT). Of course this is a tricky time of day for parents who have to meet the bus.  Please let us know if you would consider going there to observe.  
credit: WCBS news
2)  Please stay tuned for a petition from parents to the Mayor based on the statement below, and other updates, in the next day or two. 

3)  Please tell us whether or not your child's school has held any bus evacuation drills this year.

4)  Here and attached is PIST Statement to parents at this critical moment for NYC school busing. 

Please feel free to comment, post, forward, print & share.

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.
           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 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 now for more than a thousand of the Fall 2013 routes, 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 other routes 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 that 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? 
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.”
            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.
            In November after Sandy, authorities rushed to reopen schools—even those without heat or with mental health shelters inside.  Following Cuomo’s executive order to drop regulations on vehicles and drivers, they placed students from the hard-hit areas on casino-style buses.             
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. UNACCEPTABLE!
The new bid proposal even recommends busing general and special education students together in 2015, despite the concerns of parent leaders.
            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.  [email: , phone: 347-504-3310 (se habla español)]  


Sara said...

Thanks! One disclaimer: "Looming" is a bit of a stretch. Always take the mayor's strike warnings with a grain of salt! We'd be notified by the ATU leadership if that was happening. Meanwhile, let's do what we can to make sure it doesn't come to that. Keep up with blogs like this and facebook pages like PIST NYC, New York City Parents Fed Up with Transportation Troubles, and From Day One Coalition.

Unknown said...
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Debbie said...

This has to be one of the dirtiest attacks on the middle class that I've ever seen. And the nerve Wallcott has to stand there and say the workers "are hurting the children"?????? They are playing a decieiptful game here and I fear for job safety of workers. The only way to beat them is if everyone unites...dont put your child on a bus with a different driver,or aide. Stand up to Bloomberg and his goonies, let him pay teachers with empty classes, if this is what it has to come down to, everyone has to stick together and present a united front....I'm sickened that someone with such wealth would go after middle class workers fighting to keep food on the table for their families!!!!!