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Statement from Assemblymember Reilly on the Panel for Educational Policy’s continued inaction on school bus contracts

CONTACT: Peter Giunta, 347.621.8031

The following is a statement from Assemblymember Michael Reilly (R-Staten Island) on the Panel for Educational Policy’s continued inaction on school bus contracts:

“Once again, the New York City Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) has dismissed a crucial vote to approve contractually obligated payments to our city’s school bus companies. As a matter of fact, this is the third time they’ve removed these items from their meeting agenda, and it is starting to seem as if the PEP does not realize the very real impact that their inaction is having on the lives of approximately 16,000 of our city’s school bus drivers, escorts, and mechanics.

A picture of the original agenda from the Panel for Educational Policy’s meeting on April 22, 2020.
A picture of the amended agenda for the Panel for Educational Policy’s meeting on May 7, 2020.

As a result of their inaction, layoff notices went out to many of those workers last week, and despite raising a variety of concerns in a letter addressed to PEP Chairwoman Vanessa Leung, my warnings seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

As I’ve said to Chairwoman Leung, I understand that the City of New York is in a very dire financial situation. I also fully understand that the PEP has the immense responsibility to ensure that the policies being voted on are in the best interest of the New York City School District and its 1.1 million school children. However, I also understand the human side of these decisions and the detrimental impact that this decision will have on so many of our fellow New Yorkers, who are already facing health and economic hardship as a result of the pandemic.

The bottom line is that, whether the PEP chooses to terminate these contracts or continues to postpone payments on these contracts, the city’s school bus companies will not be prepared for when students inevitably return to school in September. As I mentioned previously, many school bus companies have started to layoff employees in anticipation that these contract payments will not be fulfilled, and this will seriously impact their ability to make sure that the buses are maintained and ready for September. Further, as a union member myself, I am particularly concerned with the dangerous precedent being set, which could give way for the City of New York to prematurely terminate contracts with other unions in an effort to cut costs. If the concern is truly over saving money, I urge Chairwoman Leung to review a proposal that Congressman Rose and I recently made in regard to this. We believe that if school bus drivers were tasked with assisting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in moving commuters who may be displaced by the nightly shutdown of the city’s subway system, that payments on these school bus contracts could be covered through the federal CARES Act. Quite frankly, there is no excuse to continue delaying this vote and I hope that the PEP will give greater consideration to my letter in time for their next meeting on Wednesday, May 20th.”

To see a copy of the letter Assemblymember Reilly sent to the Panel for Educational Policy on April 27th, click here

To see a copy of the letter Assemblymember Reilly and Congressman Rose sent to Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo regarding the federal CARES Act, click here



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