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Bus strike: A new indignity for special ed kids

Yellow school buses transport 52,000 city students with special needs. They are a frequent sight at MS 88 which serves many students with disabilities. Yellow school buses transport 52,000 city students with special needs. They are a frequent sight at MS 88 which serves many students with disabilities. Photo by Anna Schneider

Updated 5:30 p.m. There will be a strike of the drivers and matrons of yellow school buses beginning on Wedneseday, the head of the union which represents the bus drivers announced late Monday afternoon. Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Sunday issued guidelines for parents on what to do if school buses stopped running. Marni Goltsman, the mom of a child with autism, says the bus drivers and matrons on her son's buses have been unfailingly professional and courteous and don't deserve a pay cut. This post appeared on her blog Capturing Autism.

Since pre-K, my son’s New York City school bus drivers and matrons have always been professional, punctual, and polite. This year, every morning as Brooks boards his yellow minibus, I watch the matron help him with his seat belt, and I know that she and the driver will look out for him because they understand that he can’t always speak up for himself. They both have years of experience with special needs busing, and because of that, my husband and I can wave goodbye to Brooks comforted by the fact that he feels safe and is in good hands.

I could go on indefinitely about the mind-numbing bureaucracy of the Office of Pupil Transportation when it comes to setting up routes and travel times, but our experience of the drivers and matrons in the field has always been positive.

But this week, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott, our dependable allies will likely have no option but to strike.

Chancellor Walcott claims: “Though the City cannot legally do what the bus drivers’ union wants, they are threatening a strike that would impact our students and families.”. Of course, that is hardly the full story: according to PIST (Parents to Improve School Transportation): The City is hiding behind an unrelated Court of Appeals decision that does not apply to special education children.

Does it make any sense to cut our school bus driver salaries below the current annual $36,000 average? Given that we pay our sanitation workers  an average salary of $49,600, the truth is that we spend more money transporting our garbage than our school children. If you’re as appalled by this statistic as I am, please take a moment to sign this petition.

Since the DOE’s pattern of doling out indignities to special education families is not changing anytime soon, chances are that my husband and I, along with 52,000 other special needs parents, will be turning our lives upside down this week figuring out how to get our kids to and from school.

Updated 5:30 p.m. 1/14 to reflect the announcement of a planned strike to begin on Wednesday. Stay tuned to the Tumblr blog for updates.

Last modified on Monday, 14 January 2013 17:49

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