The New York Association for Pupil Transportation issued a statement that challenges a report released earlier this month on transportation costs being higher in New York State than in other states.
The Dec. 13 report by the Citizens Budget Committee, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization whose mission is to achieve constructive change in the finances and services of New York City and New York State government, cited several contributing factors to these high costs, but emphasized the state’s transportation aid formula. The group suggests that the current formula leads to inefficiencies, and offers no incentives for districts to economize.
The report compares New York’s pupil transportation expenditures with other states in the Northeast, along with states such as California. It includes comparisons of transportation provided to students, private school students and students with disabilities. In all cases, New York’s services and related expenses exceed those other states, according to the report.
The association’s letter states that while it may be necessary to review the state’s transportation aid formula, it is inappropriate to suggest that lower aid levels would lead to more efficiency in school transportation.
“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 stated.
The association letter continued by saying school transportation managers have been responsible for bringing down the year‐to‐year increases in transportation aid the past four years, which has resulted in leaner operations and different levels of service in many districts. Additionally, it warned against the continued curtailment of funding and restrictions on safety training, bus maintenance and inspections, which could lead to a point of "transportation safety insolvency."
“Disinvestment in intensive driver training or replacement of parts and equipment or in bus inspections and similar measures will reduce our capacity to ensure safety. NYAPT argues that is not a direction in which the state and school districts should go; ensuring the safety of our children should be paramount,” NYAPT said.
In an effort to reduce operational and administrative mandates affecting the cost of school transportation, the NYAPT said it will advocate for various mandated relief and reforms, including eliminating the need for seat/lap belts on large school buses and adopting standardized school year calendars within BOCES districts to allow for efficiencies in the delivery of school transportation services.