After Years of Agudah Advocacy, NJ Legislature Enacts Major Busing Reform

New Jersey Governor Murphy signed a bill on Tuesday (A5412/S3850) that will greatly improve the busing provided to thousands of schoolchildren across New Jersey.

New Jersey law mandates that school districts provide busing to eligible students within the district. But as communities continue to grow and expand beyond district borders, parents of students who do not meet eligibility criteria are forced to spend hours in the car every day transporting their children to and from school. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-6), and Senators Vin Gopal (D-11) and Bob Singer (R-30), authorizes public school districts in the state to contract with private transportation consortiums to manage the state-mandated busing obligations.

Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey Office, together with Lakewood Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein and others, have spent nearly a decade working to ease the growing burden of transporting students in New Jersey, through advocating for legislation that formed the Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA), a private consortium created to manage the busing for Lakewood’s school children.

The LSTA created efficient bus routes for the over 50,000 schoolchildren in Lakewood Township for its three-year trial period, and the following three-year extension. But more importantly, with the busing no longer managed by the district, children for whom busing was not mandated could now buy into the system and receive busing. In addition, private consortiums do not have the same limits as a government agency in negotiating contracts with bus companies, affording the LSTA more flexibility and favorable contracts.

With the LSTA scheduled to sunset, Agudath Israel and its partners began to advocate for a permanent solution to the nonpublic school student transportation issue in the form of a law that would allow the LSTA to continue to manage busing, enable even non-mandated students to receive busing for an affordable fee, and extend the LSTA’s reach beyond Lakewood Township.

This would enable students who live within the school district but do not meet the state’s eligibility requirements to receive transportation, easing the traffic on Lakewood’s already crowded roads and relieving students of the need to walk to school along hazardous routes. It would also allow the LSTA to coordinate bus routes for students who live in Howell, Jackson, and other surrounding towns who attend school in Lakewood Township.

The New Jersey State Assembly voted in June to pass the bill, and last week the Senate approved the legislation as well. Today, Governor Murphy signed the bill, enacting it and easing the burden of school transportation for thousands of New Jersey parents.

“The busing bill has far-reaching implications for school children around the state, including in Jackson, Linden, Deal, and many other municipalities,” said Rabbi Shlomo Schorr, director of legislative affairs for Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey Office. “We are looking forward to the change that will be taking place, and we will continue to advocate for the bill’s extension into permanent form.”

“Rabbi Avi Schnall has been working tirelessly on this issue for nearly eight years, and we are extremely grateful for his advocacy on this issue,” Rabbi Schorr added.

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