To assess the extent of implementation of the four recommendations included in our initial audit report, Oversight of Pupil Transportation Services (Report 2019-S-49).
About the Program
Approximately 2.3 million children are transported to school daily across the State, with one third riding School District-owned buses, one third riding contracted buses, and the remaining third utilizing public transportation. The 2020-21 statewide cost of providing these services was approximately $3.4 billion, with State aid covering $2 billion.
The New York State Education Law requires the State Education Department (Department) to (a) determine and define the qualifications of drivers, monitors, and attendants and to make the rules and regulations governing the operation of all transportation facilities used by pupils; (b) establish training and safety technique requirements for school bus drivers and school bus safety training instructors and make rules and regulations implementing such requirements on a statewide basis; and (c) establish an electronic data file containing accident reports relating to school buses. The Education Law also directs every School District to certify to the Department that its school bus drivers have successfully completed the Department-established School Bus Driver Safety Training Program and to make an annual report to the Department on the implementation and effectiveness of the program.
The Department’s regulations set qualification requirements for school bus drivers, monitors, and attendants statewide, as well as safety training requirements. As part of these requirements, the Department administers the School Bus Driver Safety Training Program, through which 1,400 school bus driver instructors provide school bus drivers, monitors, and attendants with the required initial and annual refresher trainings. To carry out its responsibilities to ensure safe and efficient transportation of children, the Department contracts with the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) to provide resources and training to school bus drivers, monitors, and attendants.
Our initial audit report, covering the period July 1, 2016 through March 4, 2020, was issued on October 14, 2020. The audit objectives were to determine whether the Department was monitoring School Districts’ compliance with safety training requirements for school bus personnel and instructors to help ensure safe transportation for all pupils; and whether the Department was monitoring School Districts’ compliance with school bus monitor and attendant qualifications. Overall, the audit found that the Department could further enhance its efforts to monitor School Districts’ compliance with its requirements and, consequently, did not have assurance that school bus drivers, monitors, and attendants across the State were qualified and had completed required training. Further, auditor reviews of driver, monitor, and attendant files at School Districts and busing contractors found that a significant amount of required Department safety and discrimination/harassment training documentation was missing. Moreover, during the 3-year period from July 2016 to June 2019, the Department utilized only a small fraction of compliance record reviews that the PTSI contract afforded it. The audit also found that PTSI’s school bus accident database was incomplete and did not account for all reportable accidents statewide.
Department officials made limited progress in addressing the issues we identified in the initial audit report. Of the initial report’s four audit recommendations, one was implemented, one was partially implemented, and two were not implemented.
Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of this follow-up to provide information on any actions that are planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this review.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236