Bill passes aiming at helping New Jersey’s bus driver shortage

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bipartisan bill making certain school districts exempt from state aid cuts.

Jim Murdoch

Aug 17, 2023, 12:16 PM

Updated 312 days ago

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Thousands of parents in Monmouth County will not have to worry about finding a ride to school for their kids in a few weeks. Courtesy busing is here to stay – at least for now.
This will affect nearly one-third of all students in the Freehold Regional High School District, including in Howell. Families within two and a half miles of your high school will still have bus service.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bipartisan bill making certain school districts exempt from state aid cuts. One of those districts that was bracing itself for the potential cuts was Freehold Regional High School District.
News 12 has been following this since May when the district said the funding would lead to bussing cuts. It is not required by state law but certainly helps students who live two and a half miles away.
The bill signed Wednesday created criteria that if regional districts met, they would be exempt from the cuts. Freehold Regional falls into that category and it takes effect immediately.
"This legislation recognizes the tremendous work Freehold Regional has done to control costs through regionalization and will preserve essential services in the district going forward," State Sen. Vin Gopal said.
"I want to thank Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Declan O'Scanlon for getting done a bipartisan bill which will end school funding cuts and restore courtesy bussing for model regional school districts like Freehold Regional," said Dr. Charles Sampson , Superintendent of Freehold Regional High School District.
"This has been a long road and I want to thank all the parents, students and stakeholders who have long advocated for this outcome as the future of Freehold Regional looks promising," he said.
State Sen. Declan O'Scanlan said the return of courtesy busing in Freehold is fantastic for the Freehold Regional school system, but says it is a "Band-Aid on the Hindenburg of the mess that our school funding formula has become."
O'Scanlan says, "And it's a mess that exists because our governor and Democrat legislative leadership have stunningly decided to perpetuate it. Despite the governor's claims that our school aid is at a record high this year...fully half of our school systems got outright cuts or increases that fell well below inflation while others got massive increases."
O'Scanlan said the overwhelming majority of those aid-losing districts have the bad luck of not being in, or touching on, the legislative district of a politically vulnerable Democrat.
"They continue to get screwed. And even Freehold Regional may face this problem all over again next year...and next year won't be an election year.  So yes, I'm happy we were able to get some funding restored to Freehold Regional. But it's a very small step in solving the much larger problem. Until that happens no one should be patting themselves on the back," O'Scanlan said.


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