FREEHOLD – Governor Phil Murphy recently signed a bill that will restore “courtesy busing” to the Freehold Regional High School District.
The district consists of more than 10,000 students in six high schools: Howell High School, Manalapan High School, Marlboro High School, Colts Neck High School, Freehold Township High School, and Freehold High School.
The new law, which is returning nearly $6.7 million in state school aid to the district, will bring back busing for high school students that live within a 2.5-mile radius from their schools. State law only requires schools to provide free buses for high school students who live 2.5 miles or more away from school.
Back in April, Freehold Regional Board of Education adopted the 2023-2024 school year budget which involved cutting courtesy busing in order to save $3.5 million. This was a result of a decrease in state aid, going from $30.5 million to $23.7 million. The cut affected about 3,000 students in the district who lived in that 2.5-mile radius.
“This was not an easy budget to design due to the continued devastation we face through the Senate Bill 2 (S-2) funding cuts… We did not make this decision lightly. The financial situation that S-2 has caused the Freehold Regional High School District to enter a phase where there are no easy decisions on what to cut or reduce,” Freehold Regional High School District previously said in a statement.
In June, State Sen. Vin Gopal co-sponsored a bill alongside Senate Republican Budget Officer Declan O’Scanlon, who also represents Monmouth County, to restore courtesy busing for Freehold Regional. The bill also states that the district’s state school aid would not be cut for the next two years.
The state Senate ultimately passed the bill 23-8 and the Assembly 55-23.
“This legislation recognizes the tremendous work Freehold Regional has done to control costs through regionalization and will preserve essential services in the district going forward,” Gopal said in a statement.
Freehold Regional Superintendent Charles Sampson thanked Gopal and O’Scanlon for pushing the bipartisan bill and expressed how this will be a model for similar regional school districts.
“The future of Freehold Regional looks very bright,” Sampson said in a statement.