NY Bill Toughens Busing Mandate for Special Ed Kids

ALBANY -

A bill proposed in the Assembly Tuesday would remove a vagueness that allowed some school districts in New York state to deny busing for special education children who attend private schools.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato in conjunction with Agudath Israel of America, clarifies the state law that mandates transportation for students with disabilities whose parent sends them to a nonpublic school. Currently, the law’s language gives some local districts a leeway to deny transportation to the students if their program is not “similar” to services in public schools.

Pheffer Amato, a Queens Democrat, noted that “parents of children with special needs have enough on their plates” without having to prove why they chose one school over another.

“The law should be clear and school districts should not be able to hide behind a loophole in order to deny transportation,” she said.

The law was praised by Agudah officials. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the group’s executive vice president, said that the bill, if passed into law, “will make an incredible difference in the daily lives of the child as well as his family.”

Leah Steinberg, the director of Agudah’s Project LEARN, said that “parents of children with special needs have to-do lists that are long enough as it is. Busing them to school should not be on that list.”

The bill has been referred to the Education Committee for a hearing. No companion bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate.