Mike Martucci, a New York-based pupil transportation veteran who is running for the state Senate, is calling on his opponent and the state to reallocate funds for political campaigns to help schools pay for COVID-19-related health and safety protocols.
Martucci is the former owner and founder of Quality Bus Service and past president of the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA).
Because schools are already facing the prospect of mid-year double-digit budget cuts, Martucci’s proposal calls on the state to provide school districts with the necessary funding to address a critical shortage of school bus drivers who are licensed, trained, and ready to safely deliver children to school in the fall, according to a news release from Martucci’s campaign, Friends of Mike Martucci.
Specifically, Martucci is calling on state lawmakers to provide $100 million in funding for a variety of initiatives designed to help students get back to school safely.
The proposal includes funding to help the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) increase its capacity to conduct commercial driver’s license (CDL) testing for school bus drivers as well as cover the cost of the CDL test for school bus drivers; increased resources to help the New York State Education Department (SED) process school bus driver certifications and school bus health and safety programs; and funding so SED can create new grant programs to enable school districts and private school transportation companies to better recruit new drivers and provide new and existing school bus drivers with necessary education and training.
In addition, Martucci is calling on the state to provide $50 million in funding to school districts to pay for the increase in costs in school transportation associated with the added COVID-19 cleaning, health protocols, and equipment required to transport the more than 2.3 million children who ride a school bus in the state each day.
According to Martucci, the state can easily take the $100 million currently allocated for taxpayer-funded political campaigns and repurpose it for school districts to pay for the increased demands on their school transportation operations, including those schools that use private school transportation companies.
“Prior to the pandemic, the state was already facing a school bus driver shortage, and COVID-19 has only made the situation worse,” he said. “As someone who was responsible for safely transporting more than 12,000 children to and from school each day, I understand the challenges facing our local school districts and that’s why I am calling on our elected leaders to take bold action to make it easier for people who want to become school bus drivers to get licensed and certified, and former drivers get back on the road quickly.”
Martucci is also calling on the state Legislature to back a school bus driver signing bonus program that will provide a $1,000 refundable tax credit to people who become New York certified school bus drivers and are hired by a school district or a private school transportation company before the end of 2021. The tax credit only applies to first-time school bus drivers and they must not have been previously certified or employed as a school bus driver in New York state. For drivers who are seeking to be recertified, Martucci is calling for a $500 refundable tax credit.
With many drivers being retirees, it is anticipated that the state’s school bus driver shortage will grow significantly. To further address the issue, Martucci is calling on the New York DMV to provide priority road tests for new school bus drivers, and create a grant program for drivers to get commercial licenses.
Additionally, Martucci is asking the New York SED to increase funding for school bus driver certification, managing school bus safety and health protocols, and provide driver training and recruitment grants.
For more details on Martucci’s plan, go to the campaign website.
Martucci started his school transportation company by purchasing a school bus at the age of 22 with his life savings, a small business loan, and his grandmother by his side. He later drove the same school bus for his first customer: Greenwood Lake Union Free School District in Orange County. Martucci eventually grew Quality Bus Service to over 500 employees and 350 school buses serving school districts throughout the area. In an interview with School Bus Fleet in 2017, Martucci discusses efforts to crack down on illegal passing of school buses and expand random drug and alcohol testing for school bus drivers in the state, and his approach to recruiting drivers.