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Currently, the Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA) is a private company which operates as the contractor to the Lakewood Board of Education to manage the bussing for non-public schools.

Due to many complaints regarding mismanagement, there have been efforts by community members to replace the "Lakewood community managed" LSTA with a more "regionally operated" authority.

It appears that these efforts are finally making headway, FAA News has learned.

This Thursday, the Assembly Education Committee is set to consider legislation that promises to do just what has been asked for; alleviate the fiscal and administrative costs for schools districts associated with providing transportation services to nonpublic students, but with a twist so it is operated more "regionally" than "Lakewood-community based" as LSTA currently is.

The bill, A5412, sponsored by Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald, establishes a statewide nonpublic school transportation program to provide funding to consortiums of nonpublic schools that will assume responsibility for mandated nonpublic school busing. It appears that any school district statewide that provides transportation services to nonpublic schools would be eligible to join the consortium.

Under current law, a school district is required to provide transportation services to public school students who live remote from school. Remote is defined as more than two miles between home and school for students enrolled in grades kindergarten through eight, and more than 2.5 miles for high school students. If a school district provides transportation services to public school students, then it is also required to provide transportation services to nonpublic school students residing in the district who live remote from school, but no more than 20 miles from the nonpublic school that the student attends. A school district may, at its own expense, provide courtesy busing to students who do not live remote from school.

Under the program, a participating school district will disburse to the consortium an amount equal to the aid in-lieu-of transportation amount (currently set at $1,022) for each nonpublic school pupil who is attending a nonpublic school which is a part of the consortium and who is required by law to be transported by a school district. The consortium is to assume the responsibilities of transporting the pupils for whom it receives the aid in-lieu-of transportation amount.

The bill provides that if the per pupil cost of the lowest bid received exceeds the aid in-lieu-of transportation amount, the parent or guardian of the student will be eligible to receive the aid in-lieu-of transportation amount from the consortium for that school year.

In addition to providing transportation for students who are mandated to be transported, the consortium may provide non-mandated busing to students attending the nonpublic schools that are a part of the consortium, provided that the parents or guardians of those students pay all of the costs of that transportation.

At the end of the school year, the consortium will refund to individual participating school districts a portion of the aid-in-lieu-of amount the district provided to the consortium for a nonpublic school student who did not receive transportation for the entire school year. If any unexpended funds remain, the bill requires the consortium to allocate that amount among the school districts in proportion to the number of nonpublic school pupils for whom the school district distributed funds to the consortium.

The bill requires the Commissioner of Education to establish a committee to oversee the operations of each consortium in implementing the program.  The oversight committee will consist of five members appointed by the commissioner, one of whom must represent a nonpublic school that is part of the consortium, and one of whom must represent a school district that is participating in the program. Under the provisions of the bill, the consortium is required to annually enter into a contract with an independent entity to audit the implementation of the program and the audit is required to be submitted to the commissioner no later than December 1 of each year.

The bill takes effect immediately and provides that the program will first be applicable in the 2023-2024 school year.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Assembly GOP member Alex Sauickie who represents Jackson Township has introduced similar legislation (A4461).

Sauickie's bill provides that in the event that the per pupil cost of the lowest bid received exceeds the aid in-lieu-of transportation amount, the consortium may accept the bid, provided that the parents or guardians of the students, who would have otherwise received the aid in-lieu-of transportation, agree to contribute to the consortium an amount equal to the difference between the per pupil cost of the lowest bid received and the aid in-lieu-of transportation amount.

Additionally, Sauickie's bill provides that, if after providing the required pupil transportation any of the disbursed funds remain unspent, the consortium, as it deems appropriate, may provide courtesy busing to pupils who are residents of the eligible school district and are attending the nonpublic schools of the consortium.

In its introduced version, Assemblyman Greenwald's bill does not include these provisions.

(Though introduced back in October 2022, Sauickie's bill has not yet advanced through the Assembly, and no twin bill has yet been introduced in the Senate.)

Senators Vin Gopal and Robert Singer have just recently introduced a twin bill (to Assemblyman Greenwald's bill) in the Senate. The bill awaits consideration from the Senate Education Committee.

The bill would need to first pass the full Assembly and Senate before it can head to the governor for final approval.

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Yudel Shain said...

The LSTA is a complete farce; they don't even care for the safety of the children. I have complained in writing many times about safety issues, and they said they'll check the bus cameras, and did nothing about it (Biden style).

Anonymous said...

Lsta got to go.
They never reapond to opra requests
They annual fee They take is illegal