Local Pols Say That The Bus Strike Shows Need For Transportation Vouchers

Source: googly via Flickr

From the offices of Councilman David Greenfield and Councilman Lew Fidler:

In light of the ongoing school bus drivers strike that has forced 152,000 public and private school children to find alternate routes to and from school, Councilman David G. Greenfield and Councilman Lew Fidler are renewing their call for New York City to institute a pilot transportation voucher program to help reduce the cost of pupil transit and improve services for students based on their school’s specific schedule. This would allow parents to choose a bus service that best fits their child’s needs and schedule, including door-to-door delivery and extended busing hours to match later school days in yeshivas.

Currently, more than one-third of all city school bus routes serve at least one non-public school, and tens of thousands of yeshiva and other private school students rely on the city for yellow school bus service. Meanwhile, the cost of transporting students has skyrocketed in recent years and now stands at $1.1 billion. With that in mind, Greenfield and Fidler recently wrote to Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm to follow up on a request they made during a City Council Education Committee hearing last fall for the city to institute a transportation voucher program.

New York City currently spends about $7,000 a year to transport each student to and from school, the highest per-pupil rate of any school district in the nation. Under the plan that Councilman Greenfield and Councilman Fidler are proposing, the city would save millions of dollars each year in student transit costs while providing schools with better, more reliable service. The proposal would have the city providing a flat rate vouchers at half the current cost for parents to choose their own transportation provider. In their January 9 letter to Deputy Chancellor Grimm, Council Members Greenfield and Fidler note that “with bids being put out for school bus contracts and with the DOE trying to lower the costs of school bus transportation, it is an ideal time to consider the benefits our proposal can bring.”

Councilman Greenfield has advocated for a transportation voucher program for parents of private and public school children since he ran for office in 2010. As soon as Greenfield entered office, he met with current Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who at the time was Deputy Mayor for Education, about his proposal for a school transportation voucher program. Greenfield has since followed up on this plan with other senior administration officials. Councilman Fidler has staunchly supported such efforts as a City Council member representing southern Brooklyn.

“It was clear before this drivers strike that the city’s system for busing students needs to be completely overhauled, and the strike is only magnifying that fact. That’s why I have asked the Department of Education to institute a transportation voucher system that allows parents to directly contract with bus companies to better meet their specific child’s needs at half the current cost. This will save the city money while increasing the level of service for students, and is something that should have been instated long before this strike disrupted the education of thousands of children,” said Councilman Greenfield.

“Since the DOE has sent school bus contracts out for competitive bidding, now would be the appropriate time to at least look into a pilot program for yeshiva school busing.  The existing contract structure does not work well for yeshivot. The program that Councilman Greenfield and I have suggested would improve service and save taxpayers’ money at the same time,” said Councilman Fidler.

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