Based on the Education Department's determination, the Buffalo district, in turn, informed the charter schools that it would no longer provide such transportation for charter students on days in which the school district was not in session, nor would it transport its resident students to charter schools outside the City, even though it had been doing both.
Certainly, nothing legally prevents the Buffalo district from transporting charter school students at any point, contrary to the opinion of the transportation bureaucrats at State Ed. It also is true that the District is under no mandate to transport students on days the district is not in session, which is typical of other city school districts with charter schools. Buffalo, as with other cities, can elect not to transport resident students to schools outside the district. In both cases, the district will not receive state aid -- and that's the rub.
Unless the district can be made revenue neutral by a combination of state aid and charter payments for transportation, it is understandable that it would cease transporting students to charter schools with longer school years. As often as I've tangled with the Buffalo School District on charter school funding issues, it's not unreasonable on this point.
The state Education Department and the Legislature should be encouraging districts to have longer school years and providing the financial means to accommodate schools, like charters, that do so. For starters, the Department needs to rethink its position that districts are prohibited from transporting students on non-session days. The NY Charter Schools Association has requested clarification from SED attorneys on this very point. In fact, Education law permits this, and if the Buffalo district and charter schools can come to terms, SED should have no issue.
More complicated is the situation of charter schools outside Buffalo that educate Buffalo students. In such cases, if the district transports charter students at all, including on district days, it must do the same for students attending non-public schools outside the city. The Buffalo district has decided not to do this, which is consistent with other districts, including Albany.
The Buffalo School District has shown interest in working with charter schools in doing something constructive about transportation. The key is for the Education Department to reconsider its incorrect position on what the district can and cannot do, and also for the Legislature to encourage longer school years by ensuring districts are aided for transportation arrangements to accommodate extra school days.
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Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.