The New York City strike by 8,000 bus drivers and matrons, which stretched out more than a month, came to an end last Friday and regular school bus service resumed Wednesday. This was good news to the parents of 152,000 students who rely on the yellow bus to get to and from school daily, especially those with special needs children.
After attendance rates dropped significantly in the special education department, the city brought on replacement drivers and matrons in week two of the strike to restore some routes. The city spent about $20.6 million in transit cards, taxis and gas mileage to get thousands of stranded students to school during the bus strike, according to schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, but some still didn't get there.
Walcott noted that some 800 special education students had been re-routed and advised parents to check with their schools to determine when the students would be back on regular routes.
On the first day all 7,700 public school routes were restored, student attendance citywide reached 88.5 percent, DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg told STN, and on Thursday it inched up to 89.6 percent.
"All non-public routes were running today, except for 508, because there are schools that are closed for the February break," she added. "Normally, students are off this week, but the February break was shortened to make up for days when schools were closed during Hurricane Sandy. This is reflected in the citywide attendance rate."
According to news reports, ATU Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello held a conference call with members Feb. 15 and announced the strike was over. Cordiello said this decision was prompted by a letter of support from five Democrats who aim to unseat Mayor Michael Bloomberg, asking the drivers to return to work. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Councilman Sal Albanese promised to revisit the job security issue if elected.
Local 1181 bus drivers and matrons went on strike Jan. 16 to protest the elimination of employee protection provisions (EPPs), which give job security to senior employees, from future bus company contracts. These contracts had not been renegotiated in 34 years before the city began seeking competitive bids in December.
Feinberg confirmed the Office of Pupil Transportation received 67 submissions, including two that were no bids, so 65 bids are under review. She said the Panel for Educational Policy is anticipated to vote on recommendations in its May meeting.
"The contracts then would be registered in July and implemented in September when school starts," she continued.
Walcott estimated the city saved $80 million because it didn't have to pay bus companies during the five weeks of the strike.