HOLMDEL, NJ: Transportation is tough in New Jersey. Most certainly for bussing. The typical bus commuter knows this first hand as they experience delays, route changes and frustration. Major bus companies are even paying recruiting bonuses to new drivers in the thousands of dollars to get good employees on board. Higher pay rates mean higher bids and the law has not kept up with the times.
Yet, staffing shortages remain. This affects more than commuters. It affects school children who ride on the bus. And, while local schools have always faced degrees of challenge in their transportation needs for children, it has gotten worse. Most acutely, the area on non-public school bussing.
Public schools are required to provide transportation to private school students. That said, public schools take the same percentage of property tax from those homeowners with private school students. The financial investment in transportation is minimal compared to the property tax revenue. The challenge is an outdated law on how much districts can pay for those routes. The impact on parents who lose bussing is major.
According to information released by Holmdel Schools, the Holmdel Board of Education issued a call to action. They are looking for leaders in the legislature to act on an issue that has been a problem for years.
"New Jersey requires that whenever a school district is required to provide transportation to students attending public school programs, students attending nonpublic schools who meet the same distance requirements are entitled to transportation services or payment in lieu of such services." Stated the release.
"Citing annual difficulty in administering these statutes (N.J.S.A. 18A:39-1 and 18A:39-1a), the Holmdel Board of Education, at its meeting last week, approved a resolution encouraging the New Jersey Legislature to hold hearings to consider amendments to the nonpublic pupil transportation statutes (last amended in 2007) to meet the concerns of parents of children attending non-public schools."
Holmdel had challenges on certain routes, specifically with St. Leo the Great School in Lincroft and also Red Bank Catholic routes. Through the regular bidding process, Holmdel was unable to secure bids. The lack of a response was a strong indication to the board that the financial limits placed on districts by the State are mainly responsible. And, it's hurting local families.
The District endeavored in several ways to secure transportation and met with roadblocks that require attention from the NJ State Legislature.
According to Holmdel Schools, "The Board of Education indicated that the law does not offer adequate resources in light of changing circumstances and that this has resulted in considerable administrative effort for staff and frustration among nonpublic school parents. In many instances, these parents have been left to secure their own transportation for their children with a maximum reimbursement from the school district that parents have suggested inadequately compensates them for the expense."
It's an open call for someone, anyone in leadership to deliver results for local families that affect every municipality in New Jersey.
A copy of the resolution will be delivered to lawmakers representing the Holmdel Township community.