Thursday, September 04, 2014
By Sarah Gonzalez : Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
By Sarah Gonzalez : Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, discusses the state of the school bus strike negotiations--and the union's position.
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Parents of special and general education students have collected their fair share of school bus nightmare stories and many will have a chance to recount them at Wednesday's City Council hearing on recent transportation problems. The bus companies are not expected to attend.
Friday, March 23, 2012
(Kyungjin Lee, San Fransisco Bay Area -- KALW) Fewer yellow school buses are crisscrossing San Francisco. State budget cuts have forced the school district to cut its bus services to 98 percent of high school students. Only five middle schools still get busing. Even elementary schools have been losing service. And deeper cuts are promised for next year.
As a result, Muni, San Francisco's bus and streetcar service, has become the primary mode of transportation for most students. But the routes aren’t always direct. Many students take two or three buses. Some have to leave their homes by 6:30am to get to school by 8. And others sometimes can’t make it to school at all, because they can’t afford the fare. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has said he’s working to reduce transportation costs for students.
At 7:30 on a chilly Wednesday morning, Manuela Esteva is bustling around her house, getting her two kids ready for school. She says, “They’ve already told us they’re planning to cut the school bus. There’s not going to be the school bus by May of this year.”
Esteva’s children are aged 6 and 10. They attend Gordon Lau elementary school in Chinatown. And right now, there’s a yellow bus that takes them directly there from Esteva’s home in the Mission. Esteva says, “The advantage of taking the school bus is that I can drop off my daughters at 7:40. They’ll get there before classes start and it’s free.”
But when the yellow bus disappears, she’ll have to go with them to school. It’s a 40-minute trip, on two Muni buses – if she times it right. And it will cost her $7 every day – quite a lot for a single mom.
“Another disadvantage of taking the MTA bus is that I have to go with them and I have to return back to my job and I lose time in doing my work,” says Esteva.
The school district is aware of the problem. “We now have 38 buses that are transporting students this year,” says San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe. “And next year we’re looking at having 25 buses.”
Blythe says almost 1,000 students lost school bus services this year. Next year’s cuts will dig even deeper: the district expects to lose more than 30 percent of its transportation funding.
The district already has some idea of what can happen when school buses disappear: For the past four years, most San Francisco high school students haven’t had them. Only special needs students get access to buses.
Devoriea King is a junior at John O’Connell High School in the Mission. He says he sometimes ends up spending two and a half hours a day on public transit. It doesn’t help that he has to commute from Treasure Island. “There’s not enough buses to come out there,” he says. If he misses the bus, he misses 30 minutes of school. “And so with that being said, I’m truant because of it. And it’s affecting my grades,” says King.
Downtown High School principal Mark Alvarado says it’s often hard for students to pay for Muni. He says he gets hit up for bus fare several times a day. In the middle of the week, Alvarado had already leant out $6 to students.
Alvarado says another concern is safety. While most of his students get to school and back home safely, he’s also dealt with serious incidents in the past. “The bus is often a violent place,” says Alvarado. “And the students who are concerned with taking the bus – it’s [been] hard on them for a number of years.”
Though violent crime on Muni has dropped recently, just last week, a teenager was shot while riding a Muni bus in the middle of the afternoon. “We’ve had fatalities, we’ve had serious injuries. There’s a lot of stuff that happens. So the danger is real,” says Alvarado.
The school district is seeking workarounds. It set up programs to encourage group walking where possible, as well as bike-to-school days and a ride share website for parents.
Some city officials are also trying to improve the situation. Along with several community organizations, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos has been calling for free Muni passes for all youth between the ages of 5 and 17.
He says the program would serve several purposes. “For the public transit system in San Francisco to be sustained long term, you need to actually make sure people ride Muni," he says. According to Campos, instilling the habit in young people will ensure that they continue to ride the bus. Free passes for youth would also be an investment in education. "We believe that kids should go to school and not being able to afford it should not get in the way of them going to school,” says Campos.
Campos estimates that the proposed two-year pilot will cost about $17.5 million. An alternative plan currently on the table calls for a $5-dollar monthly youth pass.
O’Connell High School student Devoriea King says he hopes the free youth pass is implemented. “It would be easier for me to wake up in the morning myself knowing I don’t have to burn money out of pocket just to go to school.”
In the meantime, parent Manuela Esteva says she and her neighbors are working together to figure out how to get their kids to school. “We need to organize among our mothers, and among neighbors, to get our kids to school. In our community we can support each other by having a day where one of us takes a group of children and we split it up that way.”
Muni’s board of directors will vote on the free youth pass April 3rd. Even if it passes, it might be months before the program is fully implemented. Until then, San Francisco youth and their families will have to keep digging in their pockets to get to school.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Florida's yellow school buses could be due for a facelift- if legislators sign off on a bill allowing advertisements to be placed on their sides.
The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill last month -- it now goes to the Senate for consideration.
According to the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood, nine other states already allow advertising on the buses, while Florida is one of six considering it.
Supporters say it would provide much needed cash for school districts struggling for funding.
But there are plenty of opponents, like retired Crawfordville teacher Donna Sanford, who made several trips to the state capitol to protest.
"If we start advertising on our school buses that's going to open the door and they're going to come right on down into the hallways and jump on the bulletin boards. I'm just against it. I don't think we need to open that can of worms," she says.
Opponents also worry about increasing the risk of driver distraction. The Florida Association for Pupil Transportation, which represents school bus operators in the state, has taken a stand against the ads for that very reason.
Retired Florida Highway patrolman Edward R Hagler agrees. In his thirty years on the job he saw plenty of motorists fly past school buses as they stopped to pick up students or drop them off.
Hagler says some drivers apparently can't see a big yellow bus with flashing lights and bright red stop signs, and adverts on the bus would make the problem worse.
“When you put signs on the side of a school bus, it diminishes the recognition factor of the school bus," he says. "And why would you do that and put children in unnecessary danger by doing that? It just doesn’t make sense.”
And he says the revenue generated by the buses doesn’t make up for the added danger.
Representative Irv Slosberg sponsored the bill.
The Boca Raton democrat is convinced the ads won’t make the roads any more dangerous. His daughter died in a car crash in 1996.
“I’d be the last guy to think about putting ads on school buses if I didn’t check it out thoroughly," says Slosberg.
"I’ve researched it and I haven’t had any problem. You know some people are trying to sensationalize it by saying these school buses are going to be wrapped in Captain Crunch ads. Well, that’s not the way it is.”
Slosberg says the ads wouldn’t obscure safety features, and some of the ad revenue would go into driver education.
Orange County is one Florida district that's considering whether to put ads on its school buses. It has some 900 buses on the road on any school day.
The district has not rolled out any firm numbers, but if it were to charge 200 dollars a month for each bus, those ads could raise more than 2 million dollars a year.
But Orange County school district's Public Relations Director Dylan Thomas says the Board would first have to decide whether to approve ads on buses, what type of ads to allow and what to charge for them.
Thomas says the ads would be small- about two by six foot and to the rear of the bus.
He acknowledges they could be distracting.
“Certainly if you do add something else to the side of a bus, that does add an element of distraction. It's a question of how great a risk is that, how great a distraction is that," he says.
Thomas says he's confident the board will take those risks into consideration when it discusses bus ads. If the bill makes it through the legislature this week, those discussions could take place as soon as the summer.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
UPDATED | Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's executive budget has quite a bit to say about education in New York. Along with a four percent spending increase -- contingent on school districts adopting new teacher evaluations -- the budget includes changes to student busing and special education spending. Read the reactions.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
New York received a vehement finger-wagging on Monday from the United States education secretary, Arne Duncan, about whether it was fully complying with the terms of its agreement that has so far yielded the state about $700 million in federal Race to the Top money.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was speaking hypothetically last week when he said his ideal school system, which he also said could never be attained, would have teachers of the highest quality (and highly paid), even if it meant fewer of them and class sizes double what they are now. What is your ideal school system, hypothetically speaking?
Friday, November 18, 2011
The bus drivers' union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, has told the city it will order a strike if the city does not include provisions in the bid guaranteeing seniority-based job protections for their members in case the companies that employ them are not awarded new city contracts. The mayor called the threat "outrageous."
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Students and teachers at Junior High School 127 in the Bronx sent more than 60 e-mails to the Department of Education on Wednesday to protest a block on personal blogs and social media sites. Some students and educators argue that they are being kept from sites that are important to their education, but some education advocates said the Internet can be a distraction in the classroom. The protest was related to the first Banned Websites Awareness Day.
Monday, September 26, 2011
After a busy weekend of education goings-on, the week starts with a question: What makes a good principal? And there to answer Michael Winerip, a columnist for The Times, is Jacqui Getz, the principal of Public School 126 in Chinatown.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The former state education commissioner, David M. Steiner, was among the officials from various states whose trips were paid for by the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit wing of the testing company. The news also included a scary bus incident in the Bronx and an expanding international teacher recruitment organization.