2007_02_schoolbus.jpgThe chaos caused by mid-year school bus route changes that included things like 5 year old being told to take public buses and kids being picked up after school begins seems to have settled down. The Department of Education apologized for the umpteenth time and even Mayor Bloomberg admitted that the changes didn't go very well (he did emphasize the savings were worth it). Of course, it's questionable how much the DOE will save after this mess.

Now the outrage has turned towards the consultants who advised the DOE on the route changes. Alvarez & Marsal says they have "set the standard for working with organizations to solve complex problems, boost performance and maximize value for stakeholders" on their website, but they shouldn't be using the DOE school bus consolidation as a case study, because it's not impressive to suggest that second to fifth graders take two city buses, while crossing two wide streets, in order to get to school. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum wants the DOE to fire A&M, while City Comptroller William Thompson said, “It’s people from outside of the system who haven’t had experience, and then you follow those recommendations blindly, that’s the bigger concern."

Alvarez & Marsal had worked on turning around the St. Louis public school system, which was one of the supposed reasons why the DOE selected A&M. But the NYC school system is almost 28 times bigger, and currently some in St. Louis think the firm "made things far worse." The NY Times spoke with St. Louis school board members who said the bus route changes were a "disaster," with changes "made without regard to highways, bus routes were drawn without regard to one-way streets or streets that had been blocked off.”

We can understand Schools Chancellor Joel Klein trying to cut through DOE bureaucracy by using consultants, but the school bus situation has exposed some huge problems in trying to rely solely on consultants. Yes, the DOE needs every dollar it can save to put back into classrooms to make sure students are getting the education they need. But the kids need to get to the schools in the first place.

Photograph of school buses in a Brooklyn yard by jet200nyc on Flickr