Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Some Low-Income Students Without Buses Have Issues With Car Service Program

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Low-income students who lost yellow bus service when the strike began last month are supposed to be able to take car service to school and have the bill sent directly to the city. But NY1 discovered that in many cases, the program just isn't working. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

When the school bus strike began, 8-year old Adrian Lawrence had no way to get from his home in the Bronx to his special needs school in Yonkers. His mother, Adrianna, said she couldn't afford to pay out of pocket for a car service and wait for reimbursement from the city:

"That's $100 a day for him to get back and forth," she said.

Then, the Department of Education announced a voucher system, letting low-income families use a car service with the cost billed directly to the city. Adrianna signed up and found a car service for her son.

"They took him in the morning and everything went fine," she said.

But in the afternoon, there was a different driver.

"He said he's not accepting the voucher, he's not making the trip," Adrianna Lawrence said.

Adrianna called a dozen other car services before finding one that would pick Adrian up. After paying $50 cash to get him home, she decided not to risk sending him again.

The DOE said that 2,300 students are signed up for the voucher program, but advocates said that many, like Adrian, struggle to actually use it.

"There are a lot of problems," said Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children. "First, they have to find a car service that will take their child."

Few companies signed up. But when NY1 called each one to see if they could take a child to school the most common answer was no.

Some said they hadn't been approved yet. Others said they'd only serve students within the borough. Other companies didn't know why they were listed at all.

And a few car services said they don't trust the system.

"We have an inside person that told us, 'The Board of Ed don't pay, and I'm paying these drivers out of my pocket,'" said one service.

Adrian missed a month of class before Advocates for Children helped him get on a new school bus route. It's a 90-minute ride, but at least he knows he'll get there.

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