Syracuse Council considers pilot program to bus more students; results of HOPE initiative

Dec 2, 2016

The Syracuse Common Council may soon request a pilot program from the state to bus all students living one mile or further from schools. Currently, the Syracuse City School District transports students that live one and a half miles away of further from schools. The new change could affect more than 1,100 students.

The pilot program would fund the cost plus remove a penalty the state assesses for transporting students who live closer to school. Councilor Susan Boyle said there is an immediate need and action needs to be taken quickly.

"We have students who have special needs, whose parents may be disabled and can't walk their Kindergartners to school," Boyle said. "We have students who have to walk through very dangerous neighborhoods. Our gun violence is very high. We've had students speak up at school board meetings who  have witnessed gunfire on their way to school."

Boyle said the pilot program is the city’s best option until the state can revisit the legislation on transportation aid formula. Boyle said that legislation has not been reviewed for ten years.

HOPE poverty initiative

The HOPE poverty initiative in Syracuse was formed last year in response to a report that ranked Syracuse as having the highest concentration of blacks and Latinos in poverty in the country. The initiative is made of nonprofits, businesses, and city, county and state governments.

The group wants to report their findings to the public on what policy changes and collaborations can be made to address concentrated poverty in the city. Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson said they met with other poverty initiatives from across the state in Albany this week and said Syracuse is ahead of the curve.

"Rochester, and I hate to pick on them, but they were the first ones out the gate, they're doing a top-down model," Hudson said. "A top-down model doesn't work because you can't push down on people and say this is what you need to do. We're doing the bottom-up and everybody meet in the middle and then we all have a discussion. We're having a community buy-in and it seems to be working pretty good for us."

Hudson said she wants to announce a committee meeting next week to present to the Council and the public what the group has done so far and where it will go next.