"Good Morning. This is Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
"Last month, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and I announced that there was a possibility that the City school bus drivers’ union would call a strike. Unfortunately, that remains a strong possibility. The bus drivers’ union is threatening to walk out on our kids this week, needlessly jeopardizing the education of the more than 150,000 students who take school buses every day. The City has taken a number of steps to ensure that a strike would present the least possible hardship to students and their families. Before I describe those steps, let me briefly explain why the union is threatening to strike – and why a strike would be so misguided.
"New York City pays $1.1 billion each year for school busing, an average of $6,900 per student; that’s far more than any other school system in the country. Los Angeles, second only to New York in size, pays just $3,100 per student. To cut down on costs and transfer those savings to the classroom, we need to secure new contracts for bus routes. Last year, we bid out contracts for pre-school bus routes, and the new contracts will save taxpayers $95 million over five years; that’s money we are putting back into classrooms, where it’s needed most. This year, we’re bidding out contracts for another 1,100 bus routes that serve children with special needs. But the school bus drivers’ union is demanding that the new contracts include job protections the City is not legally allowed to provide. So there’s nothing the City can do to meet the union’s demands – and in a year when our students have already missed a week or more of school because of Hurricane Sandy, a strike would be totally irresponsible.
"If a strike does happen, we have a plan in place to help all affected students get to school. First, students who currently receive yellow school bus service can get a temporary MetroCard valid as long as the strike continues. They will be available at schools and should be requested through the school’s general office. Parents of children in grades K-2 can request an additional MetroCard to escort their child to school. So can parents of children who require transportation from their homes directly to their school. Parents of children in grades K-6 who get yellow bus service and for whom public transportation to school is not an option can get reimbursed for transportation costs. If they decide to drive their children to school, they’ll be reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile. If they use a taxi or car service, they’ll be reimbursed after completing a form available in their schools.
"Students who arrive at school late because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be excused for up to two hours. Children who are unable to attend school because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be marked absent with an explanation code that will ensure their attendance record is not negatively affected. And afterschool programs will remain open, but no school busing will be provided.
"We hope that the drivers’ union will do the right thing and not strike at the expense of City schoolchildren and taxpayers. But the City is prepared for a possible strike – and we’ll do everything we can to help students and parents. If you have further questions, you should call 311.
"This is Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Thanks for listening."