Governor signs important school transportation safety measure

Photo of yellow school bus with stop sign deployed.

The City School District of Albany applauds Governor Hochul for signing legislation Tuesday that will give New York school districts more transportation options to help address student safety and chronic absenteeism through expanded Child Safety Zones.

The state’s current criteria to establish Child Safety Zones take into account traffic and pedestrian safety conditions such as high speed limits and lack of sidewalks, circumstances not found as often in cities as in suburban and rural communities. The new legislation, sponsored by Assemblymember Pat Fahy and Senator Robert Jackson, now adds criteria that more often create potentially unsafe circumstances for students in city school districts. 

“We are grateful to Governor Hochul for signing this important piece of legislation into law, and to Assemblymember Fahy and Senator Jackson for their passionate and persistent advocacy on behalf of children and families in Albany and statewide,” said City School District of Albany Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams. 

“With this new Child Safety Zone law, we believe the governor and our state have addressed a fundamental question of equity for students in urban communities. We anticipate that this new law will give all New York school districts additional options to address student safety and chronic absenteeism, and to do so in a fiscally responsible manner for our communities.”

Under New York’s student transportation regulations, school districts cannot be reimbursed for transporting students who live less than 1.5 miles from school unless a student’s Individualized Education Plan calls for specialized transportation. However, Child Safety Zones provide an exception that allows school districts to be reimbursed under the 1.5-mile limit if an area is deemed unsafe in certain specific ways. 

Albany has one area that meets the state’s current criteria for a Child Safety Zone, on the southern edge of the city where northbound traffic from Route 9 enters 787.

The legislation Gov. Hochul signed Tuesday would add the density of vacant properties and crime rates to the Child Safety Zone criteria. The district also will continue to advocate for commercial and industrial properties – currently in state law but not state transportation regulations – to be added to the Child Safety Zone criteria as well. 

Once the state’s transportation regulations are fully revised to reflect these new criteria, districts statewide could have the tools they need to help more students get to and from school safely, no matter the character of their communities, while minimizing the impact on taxpayers.

“Chronic absenteeism is a leading indicator of low student performance in New York and nationwide. Simply put, if students are not in school they cannot learn,” said Albany Board of Education President Anne Savage.

“In our school district, a majority of our families live in poverty, which often means that children as young as 4 years old have to walk to school if they live less than 1.5 miles away. This new Child Safety Zone law will increase our ability to provide bus service for more of our most vulnerable families, and we are grateful to Governor Hochul, Assemblymember Fahy, Senator Jackson and all of our state leaders for recognizing the importance of this issue and acting to address it.”