ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) has expressed concern that a report by the Citizens Budget Commission of New York questions the value of school transportation and challenges the financial and management decisions made by transportation and school administrators.
Transportation services are a mandated service and a mandated expense for school districts in New York state, and school districts are responsible for providing bus service to over 2.3 million children. NYAPT said that the costs related to carrying out all of the safety measures related to transporting students “cannot be ignored and must be taken seriously.”
Therefore, NYAPT is concerned that the most recent series of budget cuts have affected the capacity to ensure the safety of the children who ride the state’s yellow school buses.
“While it may be necessary to review our state's transportation aid formula, it is inappropriate to suggest that lower aid levels would lead to more efficiency in school transportation,” the association said in a statement. “This assumes that school transportation managers put excessive school buses on the road simply because they will get state aid for that excess. Nothing is further from the truth. The truth is that school transportation services have been looked to first for reductions in costs so that more state and local funds could be dedicated to classroom costs.”
NYAPT went on to say that school transportation managers have been responsible for bringing down the year-to-year increases in transportation aid over the past four years, and this has resulted in leaner operations and different levels of service in many districts.
NYAPT is concerned that the state will soon reach a point of “transportation safety insolvency,” which the association said is reached when it becomes impossible to provide adequate training for bus drivers or to replace necessary equipment on school buses, or when schools are forced to require children to wait for school buses in higher-risk locations or to walk longer distances to their schools.
“It is important to note that New York state requires school districts to provide more extensive transportation services than other states,” NYAPT said. “For instance, not all states mandate school transportation to the extent that New York does, and most states do not provide transportation for nonpublic students (particularly to a distance of 15 miles), and not all states mandate the same equipment to be installed on their school buses.”
For several years, the association has proposed changes to state mandates that it believes would save state and local school districts $200 to $250 million. It has sent its mandate relief list to state legislators, the Board of Regents and the governor’s office.
NYAPT’s recommendations include eliminating the mandated installation of seat/lap belts on large school buses; placing a moratorium on mandated new equipment on school buses and initiating a review of current school bus equipment mandates by the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation and the State Education Department; and repealing the requirement for back-lit “SCHOOL BUS” signs on school buses in favor of reflective materials that are used in nearly all other states.
To read all of NYAPT’s mandate relief measures, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
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