Jackson Calls For State To Cover Busing Costs

Photo by Jason Allentoff

  JACKSON – Township officials are calling for the state to cover the transportation costs of their out of district students, noting that all school districts should be covered for this state mandate.

  The state mandate currently requires local school districts to fund that bus service. In some cases, students who attend a non-public school may be entitled to transportation provided by the public school district in the community in which they live. The administrators of public school districts have the option to provide a payment in lieu of transportation to the families of non-public school students who qualify for transportation.

  Councilman Alex Sauickie commented on the resolution which urges the “State of New Jersey (to) cover the cost for a state mandate that currently has municipalities covering the busing for private school students.”

  “The state has other state mandates that the state is responsible for covering and no matter what your opinion is as to what is driving the rising costs to the town, the state shouldn’t inflict its bad fiscal policies on municipalities like Jackson which consistently demonstrate good fiscal policy,” the councilman added.

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  The Jackson School District is paying $2.79 million to the parents of 2,794 students in the 2021-2022 school year, who attend non-public schools and do not receive transportation. That amounts to $1,000 per student. The parents are essentially provided funds to arrange their own transportation.

  Additionally, district administrators have reported that they are providing transportation for 246 students to and from 142 non-public schools.

  While the school district and Township Council are two separate governing bodies that act independently, the issue of busing and related problems have been brought up before both panels within recent months.

  Many municipalities such as Jackson, have been experiencing a growth in the number of students attending private schools and are facing a dramatic transportation cost increase as a result of the state mandate, the resolution explains.

  The resolution adds that such increases in transportation costs are not factored into state aid determinations with respect to local school districts.  The requirement to provide such transportation services for this state mandate is not paid for by the state and violates a state Constitutional requirement of state mandate, state pay.

  Sauickie said the resolution was based on input by residents Dr. Sheldon Hofstein, Hope Drew and Mordechai Burnstein during prior council meetings. “I think it is fair to say that these three residents are passionate about the town. I think it is fair to say that they are not always on the same side of an issue, however in this case having spoken to all three, there is united support in having the state assume the cost of what the state itself imposes.”

  He noted the importance of listening to all residents within the township and hearing their views, “that in some cases aren’t always on the same side of an issue. It is these kinds of actions where you get input and consensus across all residents that break down barriers of hostility and replace them with bridges of respect.”