|New York: Removing Mandates, Adjusting Bell Times Could Shave Bus Inefficiencies|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Friday, 15 April 2011 11:13|
School bus ridership is taking center stage in an on-going debate on unfunded mandates in New York as the state tries to combat a $1.3 billion shortfall in education funding.
Earlier this year, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation said high student transportation costs are not tied to operations and new bus purchases, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed to cut, but instead to inefficiencies tied a number of unnecessary state mandates. According to a New York Times report, schools face some 250 mandates a year, and not just for transportation.
Two pieces of legislation currently in the state assembly seek to eliminate some of these mandates by reducing the number of seats that school districts are required to provide on buses. But, as NYAPT Executive Director Peter Mannella notes, there is no definition of how districts are supposed to calculate these numbers. The wording of A6821 and S4434 is curious at best.
“It’s very difficult to get your arms around what it is you’d be doing," he told School Transportation News.
He added that the bills simply assumes how many students districts have riding the bus during a current year, or month, and tries to force a decision based on that ridership pattern. In reality, districts are continuously adapting to fluctuations in ridership, such as higher numbers of younger students in the morning and fewer older students in the afternoon. Ensuring all eligible students have seats is further complicated by the changing seasons of after-school sports and other extra-curricular activities.
“Our take is some of the things this legislation suggests are things you might be able to handle with a different approach to routing and scheduling of buses," said Mannella. "This has been an over-reach here as to how we’re going to solve the problem.”
In February, NYAPT cited 15 state mandates that hurt school bus efficiency. The list included reducing to 10 miles from the current 15 that districts are required to bus private school students. At the same time, districts must transport students with disabilities up to 50 miles from home to school and back. This can lead to routes that are perceived to be less than full and, hence, wasteful.
Instead of some new state formula, Mannella said individual districts need to continue analyzing the types and sizes of buses they are running and when. He said NYAPT is pushing for local BOCES to coordinate bell time adjustments to help school districts reduce the number of necessary buses on the road at any given time. For example, adjusting bell times by 3 to 4 minutes can save a bus or two.
"If we can shave that back 20 to 25 percent, we've done something good," he said. "There are a lot of pieces [to this], and I think we’re all looking for them and we're all looking to see what we can do with them...There are some things [school districts] might do short of telling certain kids, 'We're not going to send a bus out for you.' That would be a shame."
|Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 13:42|