City schools Chancellor David Banks on Friday said he’s “still hopeful” a school bus driver strike can be avoided with less than a week before the beginning of the new school year on Thursday.
Later Friday, the New York Daily News reported an official with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 — the union representing roughly half of school bus drivers and attendents — pledged there would be “no disruption” to bus service during the first week of school. But made no commiittments for the following week.
The negotiations, Banks said, aren’t directly between the city and the union, but rather between the union and bus companies contracted with the Department of Education.
“We are at the table, we’re trying to be as helpful as we can possibly be,” Banks said during a weekly public safety briefing hosted by Deputy Mayor Phil Banks — who is also his brother.
“I’m still hopeful that we will be able to avert a strike,” he added.
Mayor Eric Adams, who was also present at the briefing, expressed confidence that a deal would be reached, while pointing to contacts with other municipal unions — like the United Federation of Teachers and District Council 37 — that the city has successfully settled in recent months.
“We want to do what’s right by our bus operators as they’re moving our children to and from,” the mayor told reporters. “It’s another day in the city and another issue that we will come to a resolution [on]. The resiliency of the city, it always amazes me.”
A potential strike could impact between 85,000 and 90,000 public school students, Banks said, including 25,000 students in special education. That number is also inclusive of roughly 25,000 charter school students. However, Banks noted a strike would primarily affect younger students and not those in public high schools.
In the case there is a strike, Banks said, the DOE has already sent out guidance to public school families across the five boroughs.
“Every family will at least have some form of ability to get to and from school with their child,” Banks said.
To that end, the DOE, in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, will provide subsidized Metro Cards to students and families, he said. The cards will provide four free trips and transfers each weekday between 5:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. on any city subway or bus line, with the exception of express buses.
Additionally, Banks said, the Education Department will also provide reimbursements for taxis and rideshares to some families who must use a vehicle to get to and from school. The DOE set a reimbursement rate of 58 cents per mile and will pay up to $200 per day — $100 each way.
“We’re sorting out the details of who will get that because we can’t offer that to everyone,” Banks said.
Even with the contingency plan in place, the chancellor said if there’s a strike it will be a “major inconvenience.”
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Banks said. “Anytime you have a strike, it will be a challenge. And it will be a major, major inconvenience for all of our kids and their families. So, we’re doing everything we can to avert it.”
A representative for ATU Local 1181 didn’t respond to a request for comment by publication time.