Deputy mayor: school bus strike ‘likely’ this week
Last week’s threats of a school bus strike were revived today, as Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson tweeted this morning that parents should anticipate a school bus strike this week as a result of the city’s ongoing battle with the union over a request for bids on yellow bus contracts for routes for special education students.
The Department of Education has contracts for 7,700 bus routes that serve 152,000 students. The request for new bids covers approximately 1,100 routes and 22,500 students from kindergarten through 12th grade who have disabilities and require special transportation, but all 7,700 routes would be affected by a system-wide strike.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that in addition to the MetroCards and reimbursements previously promised to parents, the city will deploy additional transit officers, school safety officers, and crossing guards to manage the influx of students and parents taking public transit or walking.
The union wants an Employee Protection Provision (EPP) in the bids guaranteeing that current drivers will retain their jobs; the city said they are legally unable to do that based on a Court of Appeals ruling regarding a recent request for bids on pre-kindergarten bus routes.
One of the issues the union has brought up is concern that new bus drivers won’t have proper training to work with special needs students.
Marge Feinberg at the Department of Education specified that the bids issued maintain the central requirements for training and safety standards, including a drug test, physical performance test, and training that includes instruction on how to operate buses with wheelchair lifts.
“EPPs have nothing to do with safety and training and anything the union says otherwise is false,” Feinberg said in an e-mail.
She also reiterated that the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals, has already ruled that it would be illegal for the city to include an EPP in its bids.