New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Seeks to Limit Parochial School Busing to 5 Miles

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New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Seeks to Limit Parochial School Busing to 5 Miles

April 23, 2012 - 15:01

School buses 3Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and dozens of other area superintendents, organized as the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, are lobbying Governor Andrew Cuomo's Mandate Relief Council to reduce mileage limits on private and parochial school out-of-district busing.

LHCSS Mandate Relief Postion Paper
(Summary version)

New York State taxpayers should not be subsidizing private school transportation that is excessive and that financially benefits the private school investors, trustees, and parents who have chosen these as alternative to their local public school.

New York State law requires that non-City school districts provide transportation to schools up to 15 miles away. The law does not apply to City school districts like New Rochelle except for special needs students. For many years, New Rochelle has chosen to offer non-public transportation to students who live 1.5 to 10 miles away from their school. Last year that policy was modified to require "pickup point" transportation after a furor broke out after Organisciak proposed eliminating out-of-district busing.

The Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, of which Organisciak is a member, is now seeking to reduce the state limit to 5 miles.

Organisciak first began his effort to eliminate non-public school transportation in 2010 when he eliminated 6th grade busing and has been working to reduce the service ever since. The goal appears to be to eliminate non-public school transportation altogether.

In 2010, Organisciak argued that by providing non-public school students with access to a discounted Metro-Card they were being offered, as required by New York State law, comparable service to public school students in New Rochelle. Organisciak failed to mention that New Rochelle provided highly-subsidized direct bus routes within walking distance of student's homes, running to and from the district's two middle schools, for public schools students. No such bus routes were offered to non-public school students rendering the Metro-Cards useless.

In 2011, Organisciak sought to eliminate non-public school entirely. Hundreds of residents attended Budget Review sessions last spring, successfully pressuring the district to restore about $800,000 to the budget and offer reduced non-public school transportation. Larger school buses replaced school vans, requiring longer routes to and from school (school buses cannot drive on parkways, the most direct route for some schools). Door-to-door service was replaced by "pick up" point locations, also not comparable to services provided to public school students.

In 2012, Organisciak is now lobbying state officials to reduce the state limit to 5 miles from 15 miles. While the change would have no direct legal bearing on New Rochelle, a city school district, many parents have expressed concern that once the state limit is reduced to 5 miles, Organisciak will argue that by reducing the New Rochelle limit from 10 to 5 miles he is only brining New Rochelle inline with New York State law.

Schools outside New Rochelle that will be effected by a reduction to a 5 mile limit in New Rochelle include SAR in Riverdale and Solomon Schechter's Lower School in White Plains. Schools inside New Rochelle taht will be effected by a state-wide reduction to a 5 mile limit include Iona Preparatory School and The Ursuline School.

Iona Prep recently warned parents about the pending changes.

All parents should be aware that local public school districts in seeking relief from New York State education mandates are recommending that such relief come in a reduction of the maximum mileage a district is required to bus nonpublic school students. Such a reduction, from the current state law mandate of 15 miles to a mere 5 miles, would negatively impact taxpayers’ ability to send their sons and daughters to religious and private schools. Please sign the online petition and learn how to have your voice be heard.

Transportation for Students Enrolled in Nonpublic Schools

Section 3635 of the Education Law requires all non-city districts to provide transportation for pupils enrolled in kindergarten through grades 8 who live more than two miles from the school they attend and for pupils enrolled in grades 9-12 who live more than three miles from the school they attend up to a distance of fifteen miles. The distances in each case are measured by the nearest available routes from home to school…City school districts and the city portion of enlarged city school districts are not required to provide transportation, except for suitable transportation for children with handicapping conditions. These districts may, however, by a majority vote of the board of education, opt to provide transportation. If transportation is provided, it must be provided equally to all pupils in like circumstances, those attending both public or nonpublic schools.

New Rochelle School District Policy for Non-Public School Transportation

Transportation to and from an approved bus stop is provided for pupils in Grades K-5 whose residence is 1.5 miles or greater, but not more than 10 miles from the school the child attends. Bus stops will be clustered, located at central locations, including various public schools and facilities.