As professionals, we sometimes need to take things into our own hands and work together to make things happen. Often that’s how things actually get done in our world.
Many of our state associations are engaged in advocacy for school bus legislation and funding. One of the states that has been active in advocating for policies and funding over many years is the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT).
One of the key elements in a strong advocacy program like the one that New York has pursued over the years is the adoption of a set of legislative priorities. That important step allows the association to focus its membership and resources on timely and crucial issues that affect a broad spectrum of the association’s members.
In New York, the association Board of Directors annually works with its Legislative Committee in researching the key issues and in ultimately adopting a platform of issues on which to advocate and lobby in the coming year. This year, NYAPT adopted a platform that will advocate for several key budget-related items such as state support for transportation of Pre-Kindergarten students, provision of state aid for the costs of school bus monitors, bus driver training, and more.
To address several emerging needs, NYAPT has expanded its 2021 legislative program to include proposals that will help to address the issues of the on-going driver shortage and the emerging electric vehicle market.
Specifically, NYAPT is advancing legislation that would:
• Provide financial incentives for bringing new school bus drivers hired by school districts and private contractors. The approach would be a state Tax Credit for school bus drivers hired after the law is passed. The drivers would be eligible for the credit upon completion of their first full year of service and each year following their hiring. NYAPT has proposed a first-year credit of $500 and $250 for subsequent years. The intent is to support the drivers for the extraordinary costs of becoming a driver and maintaining their status to drive school buses.
NAPT members will recall that we conducted a survey about the driver shortage in 2017 with the New York association and the New York State School Boards Association. That survey documented the extent of the shortage across the state and provided a foundation for several national-level discussions about this issue. Incentives such as the one proposed by NYAPT were among the ideas generated by our national roundtables at our Annual Summit;
• Provide funding that will encourage and advance the electrification of the state’s school bus fleet by offsetting the differential costs of purchasing electric-powered school buses. NYAPT argues that school districts and operators could enter the electric school bus market with such incentives in place. The proposal is consistent with the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 which established aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse emissions across the state.
The school bus manufacturers have stepped into the electric school bus market with new products and a number of school districts and school bus contractors are introducing electric vehicles into their fleets. This is a development that we will explore further with the manufacturing community and our members in future issues.
School BUSRide reached out to NYAPT President Ted Nugent, who shared: “Our advocacy team will now work with the Governor’s office and members of the State Legislature to advance these proposals in the coming months. Our members will actively contact their own representatives to express support for the proposals.”
It is important in public advocacy to develop partnerships and coalitions with other organizations, observed NYAPT’s Executive Director David Christopher.
“We will also reach out to other educational associations to seek their support for these concepts,” he said. “We believe these proposals are in the best financial and operational interests of the state and our school bus profession. With a broad base of support, we think there is a real shot at these becoming reality for our members.”
Peter Mannella (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the NAPT Public Policy Committee. Over the coming months, School BUSRide will feature state association advocacy efforts – assessing various issues that those associations are facing in their home states.