The Department of Education will pay for car services and taxis families of students with disabilities or experiencing homelessness use to get to Summer Rising programs, officials announced earlier this week.
The department decided to offer transportation reimbursements for some families after advocates criticized the agency for failing to provide appropriate bus services to the free summer program for students who would normally receive them throughout the school year, Chalkbeat first reported.
Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), an education nonprofit, expressed mixed feelings about the move.“Reimbursement doesn’t work for all families,” according to Randi Levine, policy director at AFC.
“Many of the families that we serve can not afford to lay out money for car service and wait for the Department of Education to reimburse them,” Levine told told amNewYork Metro.
Out of all New York City students with disabilities, 82% qualify for free or reduced priced lunch and out of all students in District 75, which serves the city’s most handicapped students, 87% qualify for free or reduced priced lunch, Levine added who worries that the DOE’s reimbursement policy might deter some families from taking part in Summer Rising.
The DOE has still not clarified how families can apply for transportation reimbursements despite Summer Rising kicking off early next week on July 6. Officials have also not said when families seeking reimbursement should expect to see funds from the DOE.
This is not the first time the DOE has offered to pay families for travel to and from school. Last fall, some families of District 75 students were offered travel reimbursements once public schools reopened for blended learning with families forced to wait weeks or months to see any pay.
Paulette Healy, a member of the citywide council for special education, said one family waited four months to receive their first travel reimbursement from the DOE’s Office of Pupil Transportation which coordinates student transportation.
This is not the first time the DOE has offered to pay for travel to and from school. Some families of District 75 students were offered travel reimbursements when public schools reopened for blended learning last fall
In an e-mail to amNewYork Metro, DOE spokesperson Sarah Casasnovas said the department will “offer reimbursement for travel expenses (such as car service, taxi) for families of students with disabilities and students in shelter who receive busing during the school year and would like to stay at their Summer Rising program until 6 p.m..”
It is also still unclear whether the department will only reimburse families for trips that include the student attending Summer Rising and not trips parents or guardians might have to make to pick up a child.