Parents in Lakewood, New Jersey are concerned after learning that the school district, facing a budget deficit, may be forced to make drastic changes to its busing practices. While more than 85% of the 35,000 children living in Lakewood attend private schools, the state doesn’t count those students when computing the funding formula. State law requires districts, however, to provide nonpublic school students with transportation under certain circumstances (aside from nursing, textbooks, and remedial services). This leaves the district with an expensive mandate and difficult choices.
Last week, in meetings with private school leaders, the district announced that it may be forced to end courtesy busing for both public and private school students, leaving thousands of children without a safe method of transportation. Michael Azzara, the state-appointed monitor who oversees the Lakewood Board of Education, added that in order to consolidate the number of buses in operation, he may force the students from the Jewish girls schools who receive mandatory busing to share buses with the boys yeshivos.
Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey director, Rabbi Avi Schnall, worked together with Agudath Israel’s general counsel, Rabbi Mordechai Biser, to produce legal memoranda for school leaders. Rabbi Schnall also met with several local and state elected officials to advocate for a solution for all Lakewood families.
Rabbi Schnall was interviewed by Hamodia this week on this topic. For a more comprehensive look at the busing crisis, please see the article by clicking here: http://hamodia.com/2015/07/07/threat-of-mixed-gender-busing-in-lakewood-funding-standoff-2/.