One of my courses this is semester is Covering Education. The focus of the class is providing coverage on the New York City public school system.
I’ve been following the plight of the MTA’s budget crisis, which will directly impact almost half of New York City’s 1.1 million public school children who rely on the free or discounted MetroCards that the MTA provides for them in order to take subways and buses to school.
You can see my coverage here.
I’ve been on Spring Break this week, essentially catching up on a semester’s worth of sleep and enjoying the sunshine, but the week before I attended a rally and hearing held at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was the last of five public hearings the MTA held in each borough to discuss the proposed cuts in services and jobs to make up for the transportation authority’s $750 million budget gap.
Before the hearing, the transportation workers union held a large rally to show their displeasure with the upcoming cuts, which would cut jobs, shut down or reduce bus and subway lines, and end the free MetroCard program.
I spoke with Richard Jasmin, 52, a bus driver in Brooklyn (pictured above) at the rally. I asked him about the cuts to the student fares and what that meant for him. He said, for one, he’d be scared for his life because kids would “do anything to get to school.”
I don’t remember ever wanting to go to school so badly that I’d assault a bus driver. Let’s hope he was joking.
The giant inflatable rat, a union rally mainstay in NYC, was in attendance as well.
A small, but vocal group of high schoolers, mainly from Harlem, showed up to voice their displeasure over the loss of their MetroCards.
It was high security at the hearing. They even confiscated my reserve of almonds in my messenger bag.
The auditorium only held 600 people. It was filled to capacity and a steady line snaked out and down the hallway. Outside, the rally continued for the news cameras.
Inside, everyone got their two minutes to speak before the board, which included MTA chairman Jay Walder himself.
The final vote on the fate of the MTA cuts will occur on Wednesday, March 24.