Trenton, NJ - Christie Signs 3 Yr Pilot Program Bill Restoring Busing To Lakewood Yeshiva Parents
Trenton, NJ - In a move that will benefit thousands of yeshiva parents in Lakewood, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law a bill that would create a three year pilot program that would fund busing for private school students in the Lakewood School District.
The district’s decision to trim its budget by cancelling busing for 10,000 private school students left local elected officials scrambling to find a solution, as previously reported on VIN News (http://goo.gl/9n4faF).
A bill sponsored by Senator Robert Singer and Assemblymen Sean Kean and David Rible proposed a three year pilot program that would restore busing to private school students who live in an “eligible” district, defined as one that has more than 5,000 students attending non-public schools. The Lakewood School District was the only district in the state that qualified for the pilot program.
Under current state law, New Jersey school districts are obligated to provide transportation to elementary school students who live more than two miles from their school or high school students living more than two and a half miles from their school.
Over the years, Lakewood has historically provided courtesy busing to students from both public and non-public schools who live less than the mandated distance from their schools but as transportation costs have risen steadily, the district made the decision to eliminate all non-mandated busing as a cost saving measure.
Under the bill signed into law today by Governor Christie, the district’s board of education would provide a consortium of non-public schools with aid in the amount of $884 for every student eligible by law to receive busing in lieu of actual transportation. Any funds remaining after the consortium has provided transportation to eligible students could be used to provide courtesy busing to the remaining students who attend private schools in the district.
Because the consortium is expected to cut transportation costs by signing long term contracts with bus companies, it will be able to use the savings realized to provide busing for the students who are not currently eligible for busing under state law.
In a statement released today, Governor Christie commended the bill’s sponsors for taking steps to ensure students’ safety, noting that many would have to cross busy roadways and enter dangerous intersections on their way to school. Christie also noted that the bill is only a temporary solution and that permanent repairs are needed to ensure the safety of all pedestrians in Lakewood, advising local officials to take action.
“The safety concerns for students walking to and from schools (and other residents of Lakewood as well) will persist and even intensify until permanent infrastructure improvements are made,” wrote Christie, adding that he would consider dedicating funds to improvements that would enhance pedestrian safety next year.
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