Early birds don’t get worm – No free transit for kids who’ve already started school

BY ERIN EINHORN — While most city kids are enjoying the last weeks of summer, others – including students at local charter schools – are already showing up for class and getting an early start on the school year.  Their reward for the extra diligence? A transportation headache.
The state law that allows charter, private and parochial schools to get public school services like bus transportation and student MetroCards applies only on days when public schools are in session.

So with city schools closed until Sept. 5, students of nonpublic schools are left to fend for themselves.

“I’m fretting about it,” said Blondel Pinnock, whose son Miles starts kindergarten today at Harlem Success Charter School on W. 118th St.

Pinnock lives 20 blocks from the school and was counting on Miles’ student MetroCard to help ferry him to and from class.

Now, she’ll have to foot the bill for two weeks worth of round-trip rides.

“I don’t think the parents should be penalized for seeking that option of putting their children in charter schools,” she said.
Other schools are dipping into their budgets to pay for busing.

Lester Long of the South Bronx Classical Charter School says his school needs to find an extra $25,000 this year to cover the cost of busing for the school’s 25 extra days.
“If we didn’t have to do that, we would almost be able to hire another teacher and reduce class size,” he said. “It’s significant.”

The option to offer a longer school year – and longer school days – is one of the benefits of charters, said Eva Moskowitz, the former chairwoman of the City Council’s Education Committee who runs Harlem Success. “I would think we would want a transportation system that encourages kids to go to school,” she said.

The city Education Department is “thrilled that we have a number of schools that offer additional days of instruction,” said spokeswoman Kelly Devers.

“But it’s an issue of equity, and we wouldn’t be able to offer one school additional services without offering them to all” private schools, she added. “We spend $900 million a year on transportation as it is.”

During the school year, the Education Department pays for buses or MetroCards for more than 800 private, parochial and charter schools.