Council Members Treyger, Deutsch and Kallos Stand with Advocates and Families Calling on the OPT to Install GPS Trackers on School Buses and to Report Bus Routes to Families 30 Days Prior to First Day of School.
Int. 1099-2018 Provides Parents, Schools with Location Monitoring for School Buses
Int. 2018-3003 Requires OPT Share bus routes, how routes are determined, and any process for public to improve the routes.
New York, NY – Legislation being heard today in the City Council’s Education Committee requires GPS devices to be installed on all school buses contracted with the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT). It would also require OPT to provide real-time GPS location data to authorized individuals, such as parents and school administrators, and eliminate the problem of bus drivers and escorts fielding frantic and angry calls from parents and schools when they are supposed to be focused on doing their jobs safely.
Prior to the hearing, lead bill sponsor Council Member Ben Kallos Education Chair Mark Treyger and Council Member Chaim Deutcsh who worked on an earlier version of the bill as a staffer for Council Member Michael Nelson in 2000 were joined by dozens of parents and activists to call for reform at OPT.
The new bills come as a result of years of complaints by schools, parents, and advocates about the many systemic issues plaguing OPT, including missing buses, chronic delays in bus arrivals and pick-ups, poor routing, failure to abide by medical codes for disabled students, a lack of specific training for drivers and escorts working with disabled children, and unsanctioned routing changes.
In recent years the back to school period in New York City has been made more stressful by school buses taking hours to drive students to and from public schools. In an effort to stop this annual problem before it repeats next year, new legislation also heard in today’s hearing will make bus routes available to parents at least 30 days before school starts with enough time to prevent a miserable commute for their children. The legislation will also force OPT to perform trial runs for the routes chosen, report annually on how yellow bus routes are determined, report the number of buses and staff needed to meet those goals and recommendations.
"No parent should wonder where their child is or when their child is finally getting home from a school bus ride gone off track. Parents would rest assured knowing when and where their school bus is to pick up or drop off their child using an app on their phone," said Council Member Ben Kallos a new parent. "After trying to work with the Office of Pupil Transportation for years I am disappointed that despite every promise parents still don't know where a school bus is with their child. Thank you to Education Chair Mark Treyger for his leadership, Council Member Chaim Deutsch who has spent 18 years working on this issue starting under then Council Member Michael Nelson."
Students with identified disabilities comprise two-thirds of the students who ride a city-contracted school bus, and they often travel longer distances to receive appropriate schooling because of their disability. The start of this 2018-19 school year has highlighted many frightening, highly publicized incidents of special needs students going missing on buses for hours or being dropped off at the wrong address, as well as the more mundane issues of chronically late and no-show buses. A school bus tracking app could immediately and dramatically improve the overall landscape by providing families with timely, critical information: where the bus is.
“With all the complaints we hear from parents about no-show buses, buses that arrive late, and long bus rides that far exceed the time limit allowed for certain students with disabilities, we are eager for this legislation to move forward,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, a non-profit organization advocating for New York students who face barriers to academic success, focusing on students from low-income backgrounds. “Students with disabilities should not have their education shortchanged by problems with transportation, and this common-sense measure is an important step toward ensuring they are in the classroom where they belong.”
“I thank Council Members Kallos, Treyger, and Deutsch for introducing legislation to mandate GPS devices on all school buses contracted by DOE’s Office of Pupil Transportation. Parents and guardians cannot be denied the fundamental right to know where their children are, especially as they are being transported to and from school. For families with students who face disabilities or other medical challenges, this can be a matter of life and death. In 2018, there is zero reason why we haven’t developed a secure app to track a school bus along its route in real- time. OPT needs to move out of the dark ages and outfit its contracted bus fleet with the technology, and if they won’t do it on their own the City Council should require it by law. I urge my colleagues across the city to co-sponsor Intro 1099, and I pledge to do what I can to bring this measure to passage,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
“If you want to better manage something, measuring it is a good place to start. Many of our city’s families rely on school bus service to get their children to and from school in a safe and timely manner. The issues we’ve seen during school years’ past and particularly at the start of this current academic season have made clear that we need more transparency and accountability to ensure that this critical service, which impacts our families and our children in a variety of ways, is administered in an effective and efficient manner. My legislation will provide concrete data about bus delays, no-shows, and routes, so we can fill in the gaps and make our school bus service a source of pride, rather than a sore spot, for our students and families,” said Council Member Mark Treyger Chair, Committee on Education.
“A parent should never be in the position of not knowing where their young child is,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch. “As a father of five, I’ve experienced that terrifying feeling of losing sight of my child for a few seconds in a public place. Parents who put their kids on a school bus go through that same feeling every day, but we can do better. This bill will arm New York City parents with real-time information about their child’s whereabouts and help keep our students safe. Kudos to Councilmember Kallos for taking the lead on this vital issue, and I look forward to working together, along with Education Chair Mark Treyger, to pass Intro 1099.”
According to OPT, two-thirds of the school bus fleet, including all special education buses, have “Navman” GPS installed, and the DOE has approved funds to outfit the remaining buses. However, OPT has cited ‘privacy concerns’ in the past when shutting down the idea of parents gaining access to GPS data. Yet hundreds of school districts around the country have successfully worked with software developers and bus companies to provide similar tracking services to schools and families. Without real-time access to GPS data for parents and school officials, the money invested in outfitting our contracted bus fleet with GPS capabilities has a very limited return for New Yorkers.