Why New York City Spends $7,000 Per Student on School Buses

Blame corruption, according to the New York Times.

Image
Reuters

Of all the places in the New York City government to find corruption, you'd never guess it would be the school bus system. But according to The New York Times, it's full of it. Marking the beginning of the school bus driver strike that began on Wednesday morning and stranded some 152,000 students, a new report shows just how inefficient the city's bus system has become. Every year, the city spends $7,000 per student on school buses, a high number compared to the $3,200 a year Los Angeles spends. That would be enough for a lot of the kids to take a taxi every day instead, and in some cases, that's sort of what happens. Bus routes have become so confused that there are often less than ten students on buses built for 60. Drivers say that sometimes they're driving a single student.

The situation surrounding this year's strike is similar to a strike in 1979 that lasted three months. Essentially, the city is looking to cut costs by putting its contracts with private bus operators up for bid, a move that many bus drivers fear will jeopardize their job security. But Mayor Bloomberg says that he's also trying to undo many years of bad management. "For decades, the city has embraced anticompetitive measures and carried on business relations with an array of bus companies, including some that have been implicated in bribery, been under the sway of organized crime and, in one case, run by a man who displayed a pistol at a negotiating session," explains The Times's Al Baker. "Both union leaders and city employees have gone to prison for shaking down bus companies, offering in return labor peace, advance notice of inspections or approval of lucrative extra routes." 

Now, sort of ironically, it's the students and parents in New York City that will have to pay for the mismanagement. Parents are already complaining about missing work and losing money because of the strike. Meanwhile, the city is doing the best it can to account for the interruption in service by handing out free Metrocards to students, and it says it will reimburse parents who have to drive their kids to school. It's also vowed to be tough on the drivers. "We're not negotiating," said schools chancellor Dennis Walcott. "They want us to do something illegal. We can't do that at all."

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic Wire.

About the Author

  • Adam Clark Estes is a former writer for The Wire. He has also written for The Huffington Post and Vice.