SOMERS, N.Y. -- Over 400 people packed the auditorium at Kennedy Catholic High School (JFK) on Thursday evening when Sen. Greg Ball held a discussion on the threat to repeal the state law requiring private school students to be bused at taxpayers’ expense.
Because of the current budgetary constraints, the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents issued a position paper in December recommending that school districts be relieved of the requirement to bus private school students to schools out of the district. Alternatively, the paper requested that the mandated radius be reduced from 15 to 5 miles.
“We have 18 school districts that bus students here every single day. All of our parents who have exercised their right of choice have also done their civic duty and paid their taxes and paid for this service,” said Rev. Mark Vaillancourt, principal of JFK.
Ball told the crowd that he stands behind them 110 percent.
“This proposal is absolutely, patently and simply unacceptable,” Ball said.
Ball added that he is currently working on legislation to increase the compulsory busing limit from a 10-mile radius to a 25-mile radius.
“This is one of the very few tangible benefits to families who pay taxes and are trying to provide their children with a better way of life,” Ball said. “I simply will not vote for a budget which rips away this mandate.”
Several Kennedy alumni, including North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas and Ossining Council member Peter Tripodi, were on hand to offer words of support to the senator’s position. Yorktown Council member Terrence Murphy said that he would love to increase the mileage to 25, 30 or even 35 miles.
Many members of the audience queued up to make statements.
“I saved the school district thousands of dollars by my choice to send my kids to Catholic schools,” said Mike Nicolosi, a retired New York City police officer. “The least I can expect is for my government to provide bus transportation for my children.”
Ball urged parents to move quickly to present their case, saying that they need to organize as a community.
“Call district offices. Handwritten letters are effective. Meet one-on-one with your legislators,” Ball said.
Ball is also planning to organize a rally bus trip to Albany.
On Wednesday, March 21 at 5 p.m. Ball will host a conference call, open to all constituents concerned with this issue. The number to call is 1-605-475-4000, ext. 591038.