On Monday, February 28, Agudath Israel of America filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in a case that could expand transportation services for many nonpublic school students across New York State. The case examines whether school districts in New York State must provide transportation to nonpublic school students on all days that their schools are in session, even if public schools are closed. Brought by the United Jewish Community of Blooming Grove on behalf of students and their parents against the Washingtonville Central School District and the New York State Education Department, the case challenges the existing policy of only providing nonpublic school transportation when public schools are open.
In November, New York State Supreme Court Judge Peter Lynch ruled that under New York Education Law, the school district must provide transportation to nonpublic school students on all days that their schools are in session. He stated that the State Education Department’s guidance document, which is contrary to that, is null and void as it violates New York State Education Law.
The Washingtonville School District and the New York State Education Department appealed Judge Lynch’s decision to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court (Third Department), where the case is currently being argued. Note that a favorable decision in this case will not affect New York City schoolchildren, as New York City is governed by a different section of the State’s Education Law.
Agudath Israel of America’s brief carefully analyzes the language of the Education Law and argues forcefully that the law requires that school districts “shall provide” transportation that is sufficient to transport “all the children in the district,” and that Judge Lynch was correct in ruling that the state must provide transportation to nonpublic school children on all days that school is in session, irrespective of public school services. The brief was researched and written by Martin Bienstock, a former Assistant Attorney General of New York State, who now runs his own law firm, Bienstock PLLC.
Blooming Grove, a growing chasidic community in Orange County, New York, has been an area of active engagement for Agudath Israel of late. Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Agudah’s director of New York government relations, recently led a successful lobbying effort on behalf of Agudath Israel with Mr. Eckstein and Mr. Stern, opposing a bill that could have greatly hampered the growth of the Orthodox Jewish community of Blooming Grove. The effort culminated in a veto of the bill by Governor Hochul due to its discriminatory intent.