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Advocacy - Doing our Part to Keep our Children Safe
Important Legislative Update - March 14, 2021
We have good news to report on state budget legislative matters. Late Saturday night both houses of the legislature released their one house bills setting forth their legislative priorities and responding to the Executive budget bill released in January.
We are pleased to report that both the Assembly and the Senate have rejected the Governor’s proposal to combine expense-based aid into one category of aid called services aid. In addition, both houses have proposed bills that provide for the payment of state aid for expenses related to standby costs for transportation operations during the state pause and school closures.
This is good news for NYAPT members and the industry!
We will analyze the budget bills more thoroughly this week and report out more specific information. The next step in the legislative process is for both houses to agree on final language and approve the budget on or about April 1. We will monitor the progress of the legislative discussions as they proceed and keep you informed.
We commend both houses of the legislature for listening to our concerns and proposing budget bills that support school transportation services in our communities. This is good news given the past year as we experienced bad news on a regular basis. Let us hope this is just the beginning of a brighter future for the industry and the school communities we serve.
NYAPT has engaged in advocacy for student and school bus safety for many years. We are proud of our impact on many key laws and regulations that govern our school transportation in New York. We believe our efforts help to keep our children and our school bus fleets safe and secure.
As professionals, we accept the responsibility for advocating before and educating public officials objectively and honestly about the needs of school transportation. We take our role as advocates very seriously. The safety and lives of our children are at stake. We are grateful for the work of our Legislative Committee and the Board of Directors in developing our public advocacy positions.
We are aware of the need to identify and execute measures that will make our operations ever more efficient without compromising safety. Accordingly, our advocacy efforts include recommendations that enhance performance, accountability and efficiency .
Below are current articles of legislative activity, followed by key documents that reflect our positions on key issues and key source documents for our members to use. These documents begin with our overall Legislative Agenda, which frames our efforts in the coming year.
Contact your State Representative
This year has seen the appointment of new chairs and ranking members for each of the major committees with which we interact on a regular basis. See the links below to read brief biographies and backgrounds on these chairs and ranking minority members.
Senator Timothy Kennedy, Chair, Senate Transportation Committee
Senator Joseph Robach, Ranking Minority, Senate Transportation Committee
Senator Shelley Mayer, Chair, Senate Education Committee
Senator Betty Little, Ranking Minority, Senate Education Committee
Assemblyman William Magnarelli, Chair, Assembly Transportation Committee
Assemblyman David McDonough, Ranking Minority, Assembly Transportation Committee
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Chair, Assembly Education Committee
Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, Ranking Minority, Assembly Education Committee
SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION STATE LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES 2021
NYAPT will support legislation that will require payment of Transportation Aid during the industry pause experienced March 16, 2020 through May 1, 2020, and at all times that in-person instruction in schools is not practicable due to Executive Order or natural disaster.
The work of school transportation cannot be paused or shutdown when schools are closed due to unforeseen circumstances like what we have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The are certain processes that must continue to maintain continuity of services to assure transportations services can be resumed when called upon. Those include maintenance of the bus fleet, ongoing training and re-qualification of bus drivers, attendants and monitors, lease payments and rents to name a few. Transportation aid must be paid on these functions in order for the industry to remain viable and to give relief to already overburdened local taxpayers.
Criminal Trespass and Security on a School Bus
NYAPT will support legislation that will establish a crime of criminal trespass on a school bus to protect our drivers, our students and our property.
School bus safety extends beyond the usual concepts of driving safely and loading safely. In recent years, we have witnessed numerous incidents of individuals boarding school buses and causing problems including violent acts against students and drivers alike. In one dramatic situation, a school bus driver was shot and killed on the bus while defending his student riders.
In New York, dozens of such situations have been experienced aboard school buses. It is unacceptable that parents or other individuals would take it on themselves to board a bus and attack or verbally abuse a driver entrusted with the safety of the children or even the children riding on the bus. NYAPT believes the same legal protections afforded the school building should apply to the school bus as well.
Passing Stopped School Bus Legislation
NYAPT will advocate for passage of related enforcement, operational and education-related legislation that would form a more comprehensive response to the troubling trends of illegal passing:
Support creation of a dedicated education fund utilizing fines from 1174 convictions.
Support legislation to establish a crime of vehicular homicide for instances where the death of a child is caused by a motorist while in the act of illegally passing a stopped school bus..
Other School Transportation Positions
2021 School Transportation State Budget Priorities
NYAPT will advocate for the following school transportation budget priorities and work with the Governor, the State Legislature, and to the Board of Regents to ensure they are given every consideration for the 2021 State Budget:
Continue to provide sufficient funding for school transportation services.
NYAPT urges that the State continue the current ‘expense-based’ aid model and aid levels for school transportation. Under this funding approach, the State reimburses districts for the costs of transportation at levels between 6.5% and 90% of approved costs. In recent years, school districts have taken significant steps to become more efficient and the expense-based approach is working as it was intended. We urge the continuation of ‘expense-based’ aid for school district transportation as it recognizes the volatility of transportation costs to districts and local taxpayers.
Provide funding in support of transportation services for Universal Pre-Kindergarten students.
NYAPT recommends that funds be appropriated in the State budget to support the delivery of transportation services for students enrolled in Universal Pre Kindergarten programs. It has been several years since the State enacted Chapter 244 of the Laws of 2012 that allows school districts to provide “Pre-K” transportation, but the burden is on local school districts to pay the full cost for transportation services. It is time to correct this and provide transportation aid to school districts to support transportation services that provide access to this valuable program for students.
Allow expenditures for school bus monitors to be eligible for transportation aid reimbursement
NYAPT recommends the State allow transportation aid reimbursement for costs related to employing school bus monitors (aides, matrons) on school buses. This need has increased due to COVID-19 related student management requirements such as social distancing and ridership attendance along with managing student behavioral and bullying issues on school buses. In addition, the State has advanced early childhood education and pre-kindergarten programs across the State resulting in an increased need for additional adult supervision aboard the school bus. Surveys show that student management is one of the reasons that people do not choose the school bus driving profession. State assistance in the cost of providing bus monitors will help ease the bus driver shortage issue.
Maintain funding to the State Education Department for the School Bus Driver Training program at the current level of $400,000
This funding provides for annual mandated safety training for the State’s more than 50,000 school bus drivers, attendants and monitors. The need for safety training in the transportation industry has never been greater given the challenges of the job to include student management, traffic challenges and appropriate service for students with special needs. NYAPT strongly recommends continuation of this funding to support safety training for our school bus drivers, attendants and monitors.
New York State Tax Credit to address school bus driver shortage
The school bus driver shortage is reaching critical levels in our state. The initial cost of becoming a licensed school bus driver in New York State is significant. NYAPT is proposing the adoption of a NYS Tax Credit for prospective school bus drivers who are hired by a school district or a private contractor operation after adoption of this incentive. A school bus driver would become eligible for this tax credit upon completion of a full year of service as evidenced by date of hire on the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle 19-A roster. NYAPT proposes a first-year credit of $500, and $250 for each subsequent year the school bus driver is gainfully employed with a school district or contractor as a certified school bus driver. This incentive is meant to help off-set the significant expenses incurred by a prospective bus driver candidate to become certified as a school bus driver.
Electrification of state school bus fleet
New York State has embarked on an aggressive goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act enacted in 2019 establishes goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 85% by 2050 from 1990 levels. School bus fleets are targeted for conversion to electric power to assist in achieving those goals. Electric powered school buses are three times the cost of school buses powered by diesel or gas. Funding is requested to offset the differential cost of an electric powered bus versus the cost of a diesel or gas-powered bus to make it possible for school districts to enter into the electric powered school bus market.
For additional information contact:
New York Association for Pupil Transportation
Government Affairs Associate
PC Public Affairs