Largely off the media radar is an ever-growing, serious and unnecessary transportation problem for many New Jersey Catholic schools. For decades, New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 18A: 39-19(a), has mandated the state to cover the costs of transporting eligible nonpublic school students to and from school.
The law sets a formula that is supposed to raise the aid for nonpublic school transportation annually as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rises. However, instead of raising the busing aid every year as promised, the state has frozen it at $884 per student since 2007-08 school year. If the law were finally followed in Gov. Christie’s upcoming Budget, the $884 would go to over $1,000.
Most bus companies are now unwilling to transport students at the $884 rate, forcing more of our Catholic schools to raise large sums of money to obtain busing for their children. Many schools have had to give up on getting busing from some of their sending districts, resulting in lower enrollment, a serious threat to their viability.
Note that public schools students are never denied a free, safe ride to school. By keeping students out of public schools, nonpublic schools save New Jersey billions a year in property taxes. The nonpublic transportation aid is a wise public investment.
The Governor is now preparing his 2017-18 Budget proposal, to be submitted to the Legislature in February. Students and parents in our Catholic schools need your help to contact the Governor immediately about the busing crisis. The most effective communication he can receive is a phone call and a personal letter or email from supporters of Catholic schools.
Perhaps your family has been affected by the busing problem, or you know of families who have. Tell the Governor the details. Even if the busing problem does not apply to you, but you believe in Catholic education, please call and write to the Governor. Please use the contacts listed to ask Gov. Christie to include an increase to at least $1,000 per student for nonpublic school transportation in his Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Please ask your friends and family members to do the same. In law and justice, all students of all schools, including Catholic schools, deserve a safe ride to and from school.
Write: The Honorable Christopher Christie
Governor of New Jersey
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Call 609-292-6000 or Email http://nj.gov/governor/contact/
Use the New Jersey Catholic Conference automated Voter Voice system: http://njcatholic.org/faith-in-action
Daniel F. Steinmetz, Jr. is a retired attorney and member of Saint Stephen Parish, Pennsauken. He and his wife and children attended Catholic schools, as do his grandchildren.