Dispute Centers Around Decision To Rebid Contracts For First Time In 33 Years

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — City parents were scrambling Friday to make back-up plans for their children, in case bus drivers walk off the job. Monday’s possible strike could impact more than 150,000 students.

The A-B-Cs of a possible school bus strike is all about “Dough”-Re-Mi. The city says it’s amazing that it has to spend an average of $6,900 a year per pupil to get students to school. It costs less than half that, $3,124, in Los Angeles, the second largest school district.

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“When you take a look at the overall amount that we spent in New York City it is over $1.1 billion, talking about a billion dollars, and we have a responsibility to the taxpayers of New York City to make sure we have fair, competitive bids,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

And while the union says it is “prepared to strike if necessary,” the dispute is actually about a city decision to rebid the bus contracts for the first time in 33 years. The city says it thinks it can save money and put that money back into the classroom. The union argues that the special needs kids affected by this contract need experienced drivers and bus matrons.

“Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott are attempting to take away the jobs of thousands of experienced school bus drivers and matrons who provide years of unmatched training and experience for all our children — experience that cannot be replaced,” charged Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transportation Union.

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“I think the union is using scare tactics,” Walcott responded.

Parents said they are worried.

“What are the parents supposed to? The parents have to work. The parents have to work to take care of their kids. And they cannot afford to have a babysitter or have anyone to pick up or drop off. You know, that’s what the school bus does. And this is a public school system and that’s what we are supposed to be supplied with, and we cannot even get that straight. That’s crazy,” one mother said.

In case of a strike, the city will provide parents and students with MetroCards to get to school. And if mass transit isn’t an option it will reimburse parents for driving their kids to school or for using a taxi or car service.

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