The Buffalo Public School Board agreed on two things this week after a new resolution to the bus driver shortage was proposed in a meeting last week. One of those two things included agreeing that it is a problem that school buses are arriving late to pick up kids, which causes kids and sometimes their caregivers to wait in the cold.

The shortage of school bus drivers has caused unforeseen problems for a lot of working parents who now have to take their kid to school and somehow work full time, and the effort from these parents to take on another task in their already-full schedules does not go unnoticed – especially not by board member Sharon Belton-Cottman. 

Belton-Cottman proposed a resolution during the school board media attempting to encourage more parents to drive their kids to school to adapt to the bus driver shortage that does not seem to be going away anytime soon. 

She wants to install a system of gasoline cards for parents who drive their kids to school, with the gas cards amounting to $10 each day, citing that these gas cards would be enough incentive for parents to get their kids to school on time.

Belton-Cottman address the fact that many students are having to wait for an extended period of time outside in the cold for late buses, which may not be safe for the student. 

Belton-Cottman shared an experience that may be familiar to some parents; she explained how one woman called Belton-Cottman around 10:15 am to let her know that the bus had only just picked up her kid – even though it was supposed to arrive at 8 am.

The resolution, as proposed by Belton-Cottman, would reimburse parents who drive their kids to school with a gas card based on the mileage they drove to get them there.

This sounds like a great idea in theory; however, you have to consider how much these gas cards will inevitably cost the school district and if there would need to be a different solution proposed for parents who may not have a vehicle.

Board President Louis Petrucci set up a committee to listen to all of the suggestions from the other board members to put together a tentative plan to test the theory later this year to see if the idea can work legally with an idea start in the fall. The school board is expected to vote at the board meeting Feb. 16.

It is an interesting idea though. In theory, the school district would be paying parents to act in the role of bus drivers, and it makes you wonder, Is this even legal?

Truth is – technically yeah, it is! In the board meeting, Belton-Cottman cited a section of the estate's Education Law, which she believes makes it clear that the district could reimburse parents for gas as she proposes. 

Here is the law she cited:

Education Law 1709(27) states that a board of education "may contract with any person... for the conveyance of pupils residing within the district" such as, with a legal guardian or parent to transport his or her own children.

Is it likely that parental contracts will be approved for Transportation Aid? There are a few problems with this:

  • The requirement for a parent contract is limited to the driver being the parent or legal guardian. Because of this, there can only ever be one respondent to any such transportation request, which could prove to be difficult. 
  • The exemptions from state agency requirements when parents transport their own children (as described above) means that parents are not considered school bus drivers or transportation contractors like other for-hire companies, and that can become a bit of a gray area. 

We will have to see what ends up happening with Transportation Aid in Buffalo Public Schools. 

This is a developing story.

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