INCLUDEnyc Voices

New York City Council Oversight Hearing on School Busing

INCLUDEnyc submitted testimony on October 16, 2018 at a New York City Council's Education Committee oversight hearing on Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation.


We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Education Committee for holding this important oversight hearing on the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation.

We testify today to highlight the need for better quality and delivery of school transportation services for more than 100,000 students with disabilities in New York City. We believe there is a direct relationship between students with disabilities safely getting to school and home each day with the extent to which they make educational progress.

INCLUDEnyc (formerly Resources for Children with Special Needs) has worked with hundreds of thousands of individuals since our founding 35 years ago helping them navigate the complex special education service and support systems, so that young people with disabilities can be included in all aspects of New York City life.

We commend Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education (DOE) on their recent efforts to address administrative issues, including ensuring that bus drivers undergo the same background checks and investigations as other school staff members. While this is progress, it is insufficient and we fully support the Council’s proposed resolution and bills that will provide more transparency and oversight of transportation services. Furthermore, we believe the creation and distribution of a school bus bill of rights is long overdue. Parents and students have a right to clear and understandable information about the school transportation process and ways to resolve issues. The current available information is totally incomprehensible.

Every year parents call INCLUDEnyc for help with resolving transportation issues, and during this September we had a 44% increase in the number of busing calls. However, none of the problems we heard is new. Persistent issues include: buses not showing up in the morning, buses arriving late in the morning and/or afternoon, students missing instruction and related services, parents feeling overwhelmed by bus problems and how to resolve them, the delay in assigning school bus routes, safety concerns, the temperature on the buses, a lack of sensitivity by school bus personnel, and the inability of parents to communicate with their child’s bus.

One father, whose first language is not English and who immigrated to this country, recently called INCLUDEnyc for help. He told us that he is still waiting for a bus route to be assigned to his physically disabled son seven weeks into the school year. OPT told him that they are waiting to receive his medical paperwork from the Office of Student Health. As a result, his son has only attended five days of school this year. The father's work schedule prevents him from taking his son to and from school each day. A student’s ability to be educated should not be dependent on whether or not parents are able to take their child to school.

As a result of these persistent issues, we recommend the following:

  • Create a one-pager with visuals in multiple languages for parents that concisely outlines the escalation process for transportation issues and complements the school bill of rights
  • Require two-way radios or cell phones for drivers and bus attendants and parental access to the GPS on buses
  • Strengthen customer service at bus companies to reduce the wait time for answering phone calls and require them to have interpretation services available to families who speak languages other than English
  • Allocate funds to invest in technology that would allow school-based data management systems to communicate with OPT
  • Require the DOE’s Division of Contracts to include quality criteria, such as safety records, vehicle inspection, and timely service delivery in RFPs and prescribe a weight to them in the formula used to award contracts
  • Update Chancellor Transportation Regulations A-801 (last updated in 1990) so language reflects current organizational structure of the DOE and real-time information
  • Mandate disability training conducted by disability experts for bus drivers, attendants, and paraprofessionals

Thank you for taking the time to consider this important matter. We look forward to partnering with you to improve equity and access for all students with disabilities.

Sincerely,

Barbara A. Glassman
Executive Director


- Lori

Follow Lori on Twitter: @Podvesker