If the mayor truly wants to find some fat to cut in the Department of Education budget, he can start by bidding out the school bus contracts, which, because of political clout and corruption, have not been bid since 1978.
First, the mayor could read the words of Chancellor Klein’s out of town consultants; you remember, they worked for the company that Klein hired to suggest ways to save DOE money.
In last month’s Times, the consultant said some bus vendors were ripping off the city.
That announcement did not come as a surprise to federal prosecutors or to long time investigative reporter Nick Pileggi, who wrote about mob corruption in the bus firms and the bus drivers union in 1980. He called his piece “The Hoods Behind the Wheel.”
Last week, the feds accepted a guilty plea from Sal Battaglia, the former president of the union, for taking bribes from bus owners.
Paying such a bribe should automatically disqualify the company from doing business with DOE.
Also, the top man at DOE’s inspection unit has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from the bus companies, some of which are mob run, so they could be tipped off on safety inspections, thus putting the lives of kids at risk. He said the scheme was in place since the 1980s (apparently no one at Tweed has noticed) and that he also set up fictitious bus routes for his benefactors. Bilking DOE out of tens of millions of dollars.
Greg Smith reported in the Jan. 6th Daily News that safety violations have tripled – to 30,000 this year – since the paper revealed that bus companies were receiving tips ahead of time about “surprise” inspections.
Think about it: these guys are driving hundreds of thousands of kids around town every day!
The mayor needs to cancel the companies’ contracts effective on the last day of school, issue some RFP’s before then and explore the MTA running the routes, thus cutting out the middle men but protecting the rights of honest bus drivers.
Sounds like Klein needs a rubber room for his bus unit.