A coalition of education organizations that represents parents, teachers, and school officials on Thursday urged New York state to cover transportation costs incurred last spring at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At issue is schools using their buses for other transportation costs, including meal distribution, picking up and dropping off instructional material, and using them as mobile hotspots for students to access the internet. Many buses were also paid to be on standby in case schools were reopened.
School officials have been told those costs incurred during the spring, however, would not be eligible for a reimubrsement by the state.
“School districts took on extraordinary transportation costs because they were required to do so by an Executive Order issued by Governor Cuomo," said Education Conference Board Chairman John Yagielski. "It was also the right thing to do, to make sure students and families could continue to receive critical services. It would be a breach of faith now for the state to deny aid to school districts when they did what was asked of them.”
A memorandum on the issue was sent by the conference to state lawmakers last week.
At the moment, there's no specific cost impact to the decision to not provide reimbursement. But school districts expect the unreimbursed costs to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Transportation aid from the state was expected to total $2.1 billion in New York across the state before schools closed.
The ruling likely means schools would lose out on about a third of the aid they had expected for the school year.