School Bus Blues

As of this writing, school bus drivers in New York remain on strike, leaving thousands of students without a ride to school. The plight of special-needs students is especially poignant—classrooms are half-empty because students and their families have no alternative to the school bus.

Transporting special-needs students is very expensive. The most recent figures show that it costs about $13,000 a year to bus a special-needs child. That’s more than four times the cost of busing mainstream students. The city is looking to lower those costs through a new bidding procedure for more than a thousand special-education bus routes. Drivers would not have job protection, and some could lose their jobs if their current employers fail to win new contracts.

Nobody wants to lose a job in today’s economic environment. But the city has every right to see if it can bring down the exorbitant cost of transportation through a new bidding process. The notion that drivers should be entitled to job guarantees is simply outrageous. Who, in this economy—or even in a robust economy—has a job guarantee, other than Supreme Court justices and tenured teachers?

In walking off the job, the drivers are causing havoc in the lives of special-needs children and their families. Advocates for those children and their families say the strike has been a catastrophe. Parents have been forced to take time off from work or to make special arrangements for children who ordinarily would be in school.

Once again, children are paying the price for shameful union tactics. It has been clear for years that the city needs to change the model for its schools, both inside and outside the classroom. Too many union leaders have chosen to be obstacles rather than partners in this process. The results are all too obvious.

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