The State Senate today passed legislation (S.3141) sponsored by Senator Jack M. Martins (R-C-I, Mineola) that would relieve school districts of the state mandate which would require them to provide bus transportation for every eligible student whether they ride the bus or not, beginning in 2014.
The bill makes permanent school districts’ ability to coordinate student transportation based upon patterns of actual ridership rather than on the number students who are eligible to take the bus. It also allows school districts to realize additional savings through the coordination of transportation services on a regional basis, in cooperation with neighboring districts.
“Many students are driven to school by their parents or the parents of a classmate, or even drive their own cars to school when they are older,” said Senator Martins. “Yet, state law mandates that schools provide a seat on the bus for every student who is eligible to ride the bus. As a result, it is not uncommon to see larger sized buses that are half full or, in some cases, buses that have a 60-person capacity with only one or two students on them. In those circumstances, for example, it would be significantly more cost effective for a school district to use a 20-seat bus and save the fuel and other expenses on the larger vehicle.”
Senator Martins further explained, “Working with our local school officials, I proposed this measure two years ago and it was implemented by the state. “However, due to a compromise during negotiations, the bill was passed in 2011 with a sunset date, intended to give school districts an opportunity to test its effectiveness. Two years later, the value is proven. Schools have been able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and now we want to make the option permanently available to them.”
Dr. Kathleen A. Mooney, Superintendent of the Port Washington Union Free School District said, “We are grateful to Senator Martins for recognizing the importance of spending precious tax dollars on educational initiatives that further instruction. Districts are always seeking mandate relief from areas that do not detract from our mission.”
Mr. Charles Cardillo, Superintendent of the Manhasset School District said, “We are very pleased with the efforts of Senator Martins and his work to make the language of the bill permanent so that there will no longer be a sunset date on this helpful measure. Since its inception, it has allowed for a cost savings which has been very beneficial to our school district.”
Without this legislation, schools would lose this option on June 30, 2014 and would be forced to once again provide empty, state-mandated bus seats for every eligible student. The Martins bill would permanently give every school district in the state the option to plan for the transportation of its students as dictated by their actual needs rather than an arbitrary state mandate.
“The legislation does not in any way relieve school districts from the responsibility of providing bus transportation to students otherwise eligible and actually in need of such transportation,” Senator Martins added. “It simply recognizes the fact that every day in Nassau County, and throughout the state for that matter, school districts are forced by law to provide many more bus seats than are actually being used by students. At a time when school budgets are extremely tight, we must do everything we can to ensure that every tax dollar is spent in the most efficient way possible. This legislation will permanently end a pointless mandate on our schools and lead to immediate cost savings for them.”
The bill was sent to the Assembly.