ALBANY, N.Y. — A bill introduced by state Sen. Jack Martins that would allow boards of education to reduce the number of seats provided for student transportation if they are not being used was passed by the New York Senate last Friday.
The School Bus Mandate Relief Act would allow the board of education of a school district to reduce the number of seats if there is a documented history of the actual number of riders in each of the preceding three years that shows a consistent pattern of eligible pupils not using the transportation provided by the district.
"By providing school districts with mandate relief, it's a win for our taxpayers. All students who are eligible to receive transportation should receive it. But if there is a pattern of some students not using it, school districts should not be forced to incur that expense," Martins said. "The result will be a savings to our school districts, which will ultimately be a savings to our taxpayers."
Officials provided an example of one bus for a high school in Port Washington, N.Y., having 66 seats, but only 12 students were riding it. In the Port Washington Union Free School District, half the seats in the buses the district provides are empty because the district is required to provide the seats regardless of whether the students are using the bus.
"The law requiring a seat for every student is ludicrous and presumes that intelligent school districts would purposely under-represent ridership and risk student safety to save dollars. On the contrary, we would choose to provide parents a direct opt out questionnaire and would provide a minimum of 20 percent additional seating for student ridership," Port Washington Union Free School District Superintendent Dr. Geoffrey Gordon said.
Gordon went on to say that the savings to the district as a result of the School Bus Mandate Relief Act is projected to be between $1.5 and $2 million, which would directly be applied to reducing taxpayer burden and would be of direct benefit to student programs and the district staff to deliver the programs.
The measure is sponsored in the New York State Assembly by Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.