MAILBAG: An Open Letter About the School Busing Crisis in Lakewood

The school year has begun but one integral part of the system is still incomplete and utter disarray.

Of course, I am talking about bussing.

No one knows what is happening with regards to bussing. And no one has anyone to speak to in order to try to figure out what is going on.

How can schools operate like this? How can the system function when it is unknown how thousands of children will get to school? How will Lakewood’s roads look if children have no bussing and parents have to drive their kids to school?

Most confusing, how did things get so bad, so quickly?

As you probably know, the LSTA is a mega-agency that controls all of the non-public school bussing in Lakewood. They have a budget of tens of millions of dollars. This budget is covered by state and local taxpayer money, as well as from the fee they charge parents of “non-mandated” students, which is a fraud in and of itself and which they just significantly raised, even without knowing if these children will even have bussing. They receive the funds to transport each child to school, and it is their responsibility to find a bus for each child.

Who is to be held accountable for their failure to efficiently provide transportation for tens of thousands of boys and girls? If you don’t know the answer to those questions, you are not alone.

Just try to get someone on the phone at the LSTA office who can give you some answers. That would be an impossible task.

It seems that there is, in fact, no accountability.

An agency that has in its possession tens of millions of government dollars seems to be accountable to no one.

This accountability vacuum has led us to the dire situation we find ourselves in today, with a school year starting and no bussing for scores of students.

In fact, until very recently, the schools themselves had not been updated at all about what was going on regarding bussing. They too could get no one to speak to them and explain the situation. This is something that should have been done Pesach time! Plans and schedules for this school year should have been finalized months ago. But no school heard anything from the LSTA until the school year was set to begin.

That is how a crisis is created. When a huge office that has hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and salaries answers to no one, it is no great wonder that Lakewood is now facing its worst bussing crisis in history – worse than ever! The LSTA was founded to solve the non-public school bussing problems, but now, seven years after its founding, the problems are much, much worse than anything ever experienced before.

For the last two years, whenever any question was asked of the LSTA regarding its deficiencies, the answer was always the same: “COVID”. If the LSTA got a government grant for every time it blamed “COVID”, they would have billions of dollars. COVID can no longer be used as an excuse for every issue. The problems are now completely out of control and no excuse can justify the hundreds of missing routes and absence of all accountabilities.

Local taxpayers are sending the LSTA millions of dollars a year, and the end product is a disaster. Sadly, the LSTA seems to have become just another government agency that has money poured into it and provides no results.

Why have no new bus companies been brought in to pick up the missing routes? In seven years, not a single one of the big bus companies in New Jersey have been brought into Lakewood. Why is this?

Of course, bus companies are not to blame. There is no one that has added more quality to the bussing of Lakewood than Mr. Jay Ellinson himself. We thank him very much. Bus companies have every right to try to make a profit, but why haven’t more companies been brought in to pick up the slack?

Why have no new solutions been offered to the same problems that come up year after year?

What seems to be is that LSTA is not the solution to our problems. LSTA is the problem.

Perhaps, every 5 years a government office should be made to have new faces and new ideas.

Please don’t tell me that “lots of kids do have bussing.” Please don’t throw around numbers and say that 8,000 or 12,000 kids do have bussing, as if this is a great accomplishment. Most communities in New Jersey have bussing. The fact that 60 or 70% of children have bussing happens automatically. The LSTA didn’t come to take care of that. The reason the LSTA exists is to take care of the last 30%.

The bullying must stop! There isn’t a mossad or parent in town that is happy with the LSTA. If we would put up a vote asking every school and parent to vote “nay” or “yea” for the LSTA, we are confident that “nay” would win 100 to 1. To be bullied, manipulated and treated badly in order to have bussing for every child would probably be worth it. But to be bullied and to be taken advantage of while not having bussing for every child is definitely not worth it.

Over the last year or two, we have all been suffering. Anyone with any common sense could have seen this crisis coming.

It is about time that parents and schools demand their right to see the LSTA’s books and get some understanding of where the tens of millions of dollars are going if the one and only service the LSTA is paid to provide is not being provided. Why is such a massive agency, funded by our tax dollars, producing zero results?

We have the right to know.

Anonymous

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2 COMMENTS

  1. One more rant….
    Why can’t girls schools in Lakewood start as soon as bussing is possible, this year it was last Thursday Sept 1?

    and why are playgroups not starting until Thursday?

    is this all because of bussing issues? some people actually work around here!

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