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Saturday, November 21, 2020

NYC Department of Education is Ready to Give $890 Million For School Bus Services, Now That Schools Are Closed

 Is anyone out there knowledgeable about fiscal planning? NYC needs you.

NYC yellow school buses parked at the bus depot in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn
Photo: Paul Martinka

Just in time to drive no one to school, those people who are in charge of the NYC funding-to-anyone-who-has-political-influence pipeline has decided to give $890 million to a nonprofit for school bus services.

This has to hurt many New Yorkers painfully without money or food after being laid off, or worse, ill with COVID or grieving the death of a loved one.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

DOE set to quietly ink $900M bus contract

By Nolan Hicks, Susan Edelman and Selim Algar, NY POST, November 12, 2020

The city’s controversial school bus bailout has a nearly billion-dollar price tag.

City Department of Education officials have quietly disclosed plans to spend $890 million on school bus services run by a city-owned nonprofit, which bailed out and took over a politically-connected operator earlier this year.

Documents filed with the DOE’s advisory body — the Panel for Education Policy — reveal that the DOE plans to enter into a five-year contract with the nonprofit NYC School Bus Umbrella Services for the eye-popping sum.

The paperwork did not divulge separate acquisition costs or if the city would be on the hook for roughly $142 million in pension liabilities.

Under the deal, the entity would manage more than 800 of the city’s school bus routes.

The details emerged a month after city officials announced the takeover of Reliant Transportation, which was co-owned by Alex Lodde, a key donor to de Blasio’s failed and scandal-ridden 2014 effort to bankroll a Democratic majority in the state Senate.

“There are more questions than answers in this deal and given the lack of transparency there isn’t a good case to be made that this is done with the benefit of New Yorkers in mind,” said Staten Island City Councilman Joe Borelli. “We’re not even buying a bus company that managed to make a profit.”

At the time of the takeover, city officials asserted that NYC BUS is a nonprofit independent of city government.

“No one owns it. It’s an independent nonprofit,” DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson said in an October email exchange with The Post. “It’s a private entity, not a wholly-owned subsidiary. The city doesn’t own and manage the assets – the not-for-profit does.”

But the documents filed with the PEP tell a different story, reporting that NYC BUS was “formed by the City of New York, in coordination with the DOE as an integral component of the provision of school bus services.”

The filings also reveal that the nonprofit’s five-person board will be entirely selected by City Hall and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

“The board will be composed of five members, including two ex-officio members (the Chancellor of the Department of Education and the Director of the New York City Office of Management and Budget, or their designees) and three members appointed by the Chancellor, one of whom will be a parent representative,” the documents state.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said he would scrutinize the arrangement Thursday.

“The Comptroller has long raised concerns about the DOE’s procurement protocols, especially in school bus contracts,” said spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays, in a statement to the Post “In a time of fiscal uncertainty, every penny counts. We will scrutinize this deal to ensure accountability, fiscal responsibility, and the safe transportation of our children to and from school.”

Filson declined to reveal the acquisition costs or to clarify the city’s exposure to pension costs.

“Without knowing the cost of the company and what kind of debt the city may be assuming, it is impossible to tell whether this is a good deal or not,” said parent advocate Leonie Haimson.  “In any case, for the DOE to take on more financial risks and obligations at this time seems irresponsible, given the economic crisis we face.”

Filson said Thursday that the arrangement will ultimately lower costs and that NYC BUS will operate independently.

“This five-year investment in the safety, reliability, and oversight of bus service is in the best interest of our students and minimizes costs of outsourcing to a private, for-profit vendor,” she said. “It will exist as an independent nonprofit with a majority of board members not affiliated with the City, and the City will not own or manage the assets.”

Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli Sues The NYC DOE To Re-Open Schools


Staten Island City Councilman Joe Borelli announces a lawsuit to force NYC to resume
in-person learning last month [photo: Paul Martinka]

We do not agree with the sudden closing of all schools. See this from the New York Times, November 20, 2020:

Parents Erupt in Frustration as New York City Schools Close
“Does the mayor think we’re all stay-at-home moms?”

We believe that the NYC Department of Education and NYC itself are in chaos, without any firm, workable standard, or policy to follow, and too many parents, students, and teachers are harmed if the schools keep opening and closing in a haphazard manner, as we see in NYC.

As a parent and teacher advocate, I know that thousands of NYC families do not have food for their kids or internet access. While some effort is being made to remedy this situation, and we value that, the efforts are not enough.

Essential workers who depend upon schools to take care of their kids not only in terms of learning, but feeding, and watching them, giving them opportunities to socialize safely - with masks and 6 feet apart - are all very important not only for these kids today, but tomorrow and far into the future.

At the same time, I am stunned by the denial of accommodations being handed out to educators who are compromised by medical conditions, while others get the rest of the school year teaching remotely. We must do better.

There should be a concerted effort to gather together a team of concerned educators who will visit each home in their community to see what the immediate needs of the families are and make a record.

How about you start, Chancellor Carranza? Donate your salary to this team and put your feet where they need to be, running toward a solution. We know the problems and we have the ability to solve the gap between those who have everything and those who have nothing. Let's do something meaningful.

Best of luck, Councilman Borelli, on this precedent-setting lawsuit.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli, parents file lawsuit to reopen NYC schools
Susan Edelman, NYPOST, November 21, 2020

Staten Island City Councilman Joe Borelli joined parents in filing a second lawsuit seeking an emergency injunction to reopen public schools, he announced Saturday.

The Friday night filing in Manhattan federal court comes on the heels of Mayor de Blasio’s controversial decision to shutter all city schools due to rising COVID-19 cases.

“Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza have continued to fail our children time and time again,” Borelli said in a statement. “Even though they had six months to prepare for this school year, they failed to do so and our children are forced to pay the price.”

He added, “Remote learning has proven to be a failure and now they have taken the extra step of closing the schools completely. This is utterly irresponsible and unacceptable.”

Borelli and a group of Staten Island parents filed a lawsuit last month in Richmond County Supreme Court to demand a full reopening of schools. The suit complained that remote instruction is depriving students of an adequate education.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Mark Fonte, Lou Gelormino, and James Mermigis.

“Governor Cuomo said just two days ago that ‘the infection rates in the schools are very low and the infections are not coming from the schools,’” Mermigis said in a statement.

“Why are we closing our schools? This is just another example of the random and arbitrary decisions that are being made in Albany and City Hall. But now, we are hurting our children and this incompetence at the top is unacceptable.”

De Blasio said he stuck to a promise to parents and teachers before opening schools that he would shut them as a safety precaution if the positivity rate hit 3 percent on a rolling seven-day average.