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North Salem Board of Ed Challenges State Mandates

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – State mandates were a major topic of discussion at Wednesday’s board of education meeting.  The North Salem School District is looking at ways to challenge certain mandates that school officials said they find burdensome.

One of the mandates the district said it might contest is the requirement to transport local students to non-public schools within a 15 mile radius. “I feel very strongly that this is a very inefficient use of taxpayer dollars and I think most legislators ought to be able to see it,” said Katherine Daniels, school board president.

“I know that private school parents feel strongly that they pay taxes and they deserve something. But on the other hand, the whole idea behind public school is that you do it all in one place and there is a built-in efficiency. We spend almost three times as much transporting private school kids. Last year it came to about $500,000. That is $5,000 apiece as opposed to $2,000.”

There are 89 North Salem students attending private schools this year, according to the district. Trustee Andy Brown said, “It seems like too much money going to too few kids. It’s too much of a concentration of funds. But I wouldn’t want to shut those other kids out.”

Superintendent Ken Freeston said he’d like to cap the district’s obligation for non-public transportation “so there is an equality.”  He suggested that perhaps there’s a way for parents to be reimbursed for what it would cost to transport their children to the public schools and they could pay the difference. “Caps are popular these days,” Freeston said.

Brown wondered, “Can’t the private schools send buses here?” Later he said, “The problem is that every mandate has a constituency.”

In terms of the two other mandates being challenged, North Salem is working with the Westchester Putnam School Boards Association (WPSBA). These mandates concern placing a freeze on step increases on expired contracts and requesting the realignment of state regulations covering special education students to conform to the regulations already established by the federal government.

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