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Chaos Expected As NYC School Bus Drivers Strike; 152,000 Students Affected

NPR icon by Mark Memmott
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"It's going to be chaotic," New York City school's Chancellor Dennis Walcott tells NY1 as his system and the city head into Day 1 of a strike by school bus drivers.

About 152,000 students, one third of them with special needs, rely on the yellow buses to get back and forth to school each day.

According to our colleagues at WNYC, the key issue in dispute is "the union's demand to include an employee protection provision in any new contracts the city signs with bus companies." It adds that:

"The city bid out the first batch of contracts, for pre-K bus routes, during the last school year. Those bids originally included the employee protections that currently guarantee Local 1181 workers the same pay if they're hired by different bus companies (drivers make between $14-$30 an hour, escorts make less).

"But a court found the protections are illegal. With that decision as precedent, the city argues that it cannot legally include the same protections in all other contracts, including the next batch that expire in June for 1,100 routes serving special education students in grades K-12."

Now, WNYC reports, "thousands of parents are scrambling to figure out how they will get their kids to school." The station's SchoolBook blog writes that:

"The [city's] Department of Education said it would distribute MetroCards at school, and will reimburse those who take a car service or taxi because their children cannot take public transportation. But there are about 152,000 children affected, one third of them with special needs. Getting one's child to school on time is complicated enough; without reliable school bus service many families told SchoolBook they will be at a loss come Wednesday morning."

According to The Associated Press, there are more than 8,000 bus drivers and matrons working for the bus companies the city hires. The city's school system has about 1.1 million students. Most take public transportation or walk to school.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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