A state Supreme Court judge ruled on Monday that the city must restore yellow school bus service to more than 3,000 seventh and eighth grade students in Staten Island and parts of Queens.
The city and the Department of Education (DOE) cut school bus vouchers for certain seventh and eighth graders in an effort to save money. Parents, joined by Staten Island Council Members and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), sued the city to restore service for their children.
Most seventh and eighth graders receive student MetroCards for bus service, but certain variances were made for communities where there were no adequate modes of public transportation. The city decided to eliminate these variances for this fiscal year.
Supreme Court Justice John Fusco ruled that the city was wrong in cutting bus service.
“This court is aware of the painstaking work involved in reaching the decisions that affect the citizens of this city, whether those decisions are received with applause or anger," Fusco wrote in his ruling. "However, not all decisions are given the deliberation the State of New York require, and that is what occurred herein. Budgetary decisions that affect pupil education cannot be made on assumptions without a factual basis to support those assumptions.”
Fusco was sympathetic to the DOE, but ruled they did not adequately investigate all the factors when making its decision.
Ulrich was pleased with the court’s ruling. “Some people say you can’t fight City Hall and win, but they're wrong,” he said. “Yesterday’s ruling was a tremendous victory for the parents and children of Rockaway. The judge’s decision concluded what we already knew—that the City made this cut without regard for the safety and welfare of the children.”
“I am eager to see if the incoming Schools Chancellor will use her business acumen to prevent misguided cuts like these in the future,” Ulrich added.
The city is filing an appeal to the court’s ruling. “In determining that these students must be provided yellow bus transportation, while 7th and 8th graders throughout the rest of the City are not, the Court ignored both the law, the record and equity,” the city Law Department said in a statement, according to NY1.
The city is seeking a stay in the ruling, which would mean buses still could not transport seventh and eighth graders, until the appeal is heard. A decision on the motion is expected in the next few days.