When New York City schoolchildren return from their winter break tomorrow, they’ll find school-bus service has returned to normal. The month-long strike by city school-bus drivers and matrons that affected more than 100,000 students came to an end Friday evening when local union leaders capitulated in their showdown with Mayor Bloomberg. While disabled children who disproportionately rely on bus service and the bus drivers themselves suffered some hardships under the strike, it turns out it was actually good for the city’s finances:
The city spent roughly $20.6 million in transit cards, taxis and gas mileage to get tens of thousands of stranded students to school during the monthlong bus strike, but some still didn’t get there at all, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Monday. . . .
Walcott estimated the city saved $80 million because it wasn’t paying bus companies during the strike, which started over job protection issues. Local 1181 of the ATU wanted the city to include protections for current employees in future contracts with bus companies, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a court ruling prohibited the city from doing so.
The savings aren’t as surprising when you consider that the city annually pays bus contractors $1.1 billion, or about $7,000 per student. That’s more than twice as much as any other school district in the country, and it’s $1 billion more than it cost New York City to bus students in 1979.
Despite the obvious need to rein in costs, five of the leading Democratic candidates to succeed Bloomberg signed a letter assuring the union that, if elected, they would act to protect members’ job security, wages, and benefits.