By Kyle Olson
NEW YORK – The New York City Department of Education has been catching heat from transportation unions lately over a decision to solicit bids for transportation services for the first time in years, in an effort to curtail runaway costs.
The district has not sought “significant” bids for student transportation services in 33 years. That means it’s probably been using the same companies for years, without competitive bids to naturally control rising costs.
And those costs are increased every year because the companies use highly-paid union drivers.
In response to the union criticism, the DOE recently issued a “School Bus Bids FAQ” which makes a staggering admission: the city spends $6,900 per student (for a total of $1.1 billion) per year for bus transportation.
In a 180 day school year, that’s $38.33 per student a day. At that rate it might be more cost-effective for the school system to distribute vouchers for kids to take taxis.
City officials say New York spends more than twice what Los Angeles (the nation’s second-largest city) spends on K-12 student transportation.
They point out that a recently bid contract for pre-kindergarten bus services saved the city $95 million over five years.
The unions are obviously upset because competitive bidding means companies seeking a city transportation contract will naturally want to control their labor costs. Higher wages and expensive benefits for drivers means a higher bid, and a higher bid may fail to secure the contract.
The unions are also upset because the city is removing a provision from its bidding rules that says companies must retain drivers during layoffs based on seniority.
Union officials say less experienced drivers could compromise safety and put students at risk.
The DOE claims the bus unions may strike as a result of losing seniority, leaving 152,000 students – including 54,000 who require special transportation services – without a ride to school.
Such a threat was lodged previously by the Amalgamated Transit Union when the city solicited bids for the pre-K contract.
So instead of allowing the city to save tax money through a bidding process, and allowing the bus contractors to retain the best (not necessarily the most senior) drivers, union officials and supportive politicians are screaming bloody murder.
Former city Comptroller Bill Thompson called the move “misguided” while Public Advocate Bill De Blasio said there was “no legal rationale” for effectively eliminating seniority, according to CBS 2.
Both are rumored to be running for mayor and are currently kissing the ring of Big Labor.
Perhaps there’s one potential mayoral candidate out there who understands how stupid it is to waste millions of precious education dollars on an expense that has nothing to do with student learning – all in the name of keeping Big Labor fat and sassy.
A lot of disgusted taxpayers might support such a candidate.