In an attempt to bring attention to the transportation needs for children in nonpublic schools, parents, guardians, educators and groups across the state are being encouraged to contact the office of Gov. Chris Christie to request an increase in funding.
Currently, nonpublic school transportation funding is provided up to $884 per student, which, argues the New Jersey Catholic Conference and the New Jersey Network of Catholic School Families, falls short of the amount needed. They are asking that the amount, which has been frozen since the 2007-08 budget year, be increased to $1,047.
“Even if you live in a town that doesn’t have a problem, the day could come when you do,” said Frances Koukotas, diocesan director of the New Jersey Network of Catholic School Families.
Public school districts typically use their own vehicles first for public school students. If any vehicles and drivers are available afterward, the districts can transport nonpublic pupils. Those policy decisions are made on an individual school district level. Thus, the majority of nonpublic school transportation occurs through private contractors.
Nonpublic schools have attempted a variety of options in order to continue to transport its students within the $884 per pupil ceiling, including centralized stops and changes in arrival and dismissal times in schools.
These problems are being felt across all five dioceses in the state, with the Camden and Metuchen dioceses being the hardest-hit.
The initiative to contact the Governor’s Office is focused strictly on the governor at this time because the state Legislature will not take up the issue until Christie presents his budget in February 2017.
To contact the Governor’s Office, email http://www.nj.gov/governor/contact/ or send a letter to P.O. Box 001 Trenton, NJ 08625.
Jennifer Mauro is associate editor of the Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton.