UPDATED: Historic Lakewood Busing Legislation Passes New Jersey Assembly, Heads to Governor

busing trenton 2In a momentous vote moments ago, the New Jersey Assembly passed Bill S-2049, which Establishes a three-year nonpublic school pupil transportation pilot program in Lakewood School District to provide funding to consortium of nonpublic schools that will assume responsibility for district’s mandated nonpublic school busing. The bill passed 41-27.

In the approved school budget for the upcoming school year, courtesy busing has been eliminated. Nearly 10,000 public and non public school children will not have transportation to school. Having, potentially thousands of children, many of which are just 6 or 7 years old, walking on the unpaved dark streets of Lakewood is a frightening, hazardous reality. In addition to the extreme safety concerns, the lack of courtesy bussing would have a detrimental effect on the towns already strained traffic. Adding hundreds of more vehicles in place of the busses would paralyze many of the main roads. .

Facing this predicament, several local askanim, devised a plan to save Lakewood from this oncoming crisis. If each student from the Non public school system, which is entitled to mandated busing would receive an Aid In Lieu (AIL) check, which is provided in cases where no company has picked up a specific route, in the full amount of $884, and administer these checks to a private consortium which will undertake the transportation of all nonpublic school children, taking the responsibility out of the BOE. The consortium will be able to negotiate long term contracts with the bus companies lowering the rates and ultimately creating a substantial surplus of funds which can then be used to subsidize busing for those that are included in the courtesy routes.

meeting singer 1If the plan were to work, the township committed itself to provide courtesy busing services for the public school children. The township simply cannot provide for all 10,000 children, if however the plan comes to fruition, 7,000 will covered, leaving the township with just 3,000. A number they are able to manage.

Senator Bob Singer and Assemblymen Kean and Rible were approached with the idea and they immediately jumped into action writing legislation and introducing it in the senate and assembly.

gary schaer meir lichtensteinThe bill was met with strong opposition from the NJEA (teachers union) and the ACLU. A strong lobbying effort was then put in place. Several community leaders travelled to Trenton to meet with Senate President Stephen Sweeney to discuss the predicament. The senate president recognized the problem and committed himself to support the bill. The bill passed a full senate vote 22-8.

The next hurdle was passing the Assembly. Assemblyman Garry Schaer, chairman of the State Budget Committee was approached to assist in its passage through the assembly. After a long vigorous battle, facing strong opposition the bill has passed the assembly.

The bill now heads to Governor Christie for final approval before becoming law.

“We are so grateful for the herculean efforts that Senate President Sweeney, Senator Singer, Assemblymen Schaer, Kean and Rible invested in this legislation. Each one played a critical role during this challenging process. Senator Sweeney demonstrated true leadership and determination, Assemblyman Schaer, who does not represent the Lakewood district, never the less, undertook to promote this bill too his fullest, The Lakewood representatives, Senator Singer and Assemblymen Kean and Rible displayed their commitment and concern for the needs of the community. It was truly an awe inspiring experience and gave us tremendous pride seeing our friends in the legislature working so hard for us” said Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey Director of Agudath Israel of America.

Lakewood Mayor Menashe Miller thanked Rabbi Schnall for his tireless efforts.

gary schaer avi schnall“We are appreciative of Rabbi Avi Schnall’s constant and consistent lobbying efforts to ensure the safety of the Lakewood school children,” Mayor Miller told TLS.

The Mayor added, “We thank the members of the NJ Senate and Assembly who took the time to understand the intricacies of this bill and how vital it is for the safety of Lakewood’s school children.”


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  1. at least our elected officials finally earned our vote, they worked hard to craft this legislation to help their district , it was an unpopular bill and they worked hard to get it passed. we need to all thank Steve Sweeny and Gary Schaer who also stuck their necks our for lakewood.

  2. Hopefully this will enable Lakewood BOE to focus its attention on improving the public achool and not need to constantly be dealing with the bussing challenges. This should enable Lakewood to grow as a whole and mend the rips the bussing caused.

  3. if this vote was critical for the lakewood comunnity
    how come they didnt ask a few thousand people to go down to trenton to voice support?

  4. A big THANK YOU is due to Rabbi Avi Schnall who has expended tremendous efforts for this bill. A true example of devotion and hard work!

  5. Rabbi Schnall, we are so proud of you! Thank you for your efforts on behalf of us and the entire Lakewood community.

  6. Great news, now the township gives money to the school district for courtesy busing of public school students. No kids walking in the street and the non publics can now have Gus help with all the routes. He knows them so well just ask him

  7. Althgouh I think this is great for what it accomplishes…. I also think it is sad our system is so broken we have to come up with ways to circumvent the system to make this work. You would think the government would properly fund courtesy bussing where needed… or that if bussing could be had at a more reasonable price… the government would be paying the more reasonable price. Instead we basically break the system by taking money that could be mandated and then stretching the dollars. We need the bussing so I am delighted it is looking to work out… but what a sad state of affairs on so many levels!

  8. Sometimes (most times) you get more done by quietly working behind the scenes than making a ruckus. This vote is a case in point.

  9. Bussing is important for the safety of all children, and for the terrible and dangerous traffic situation in Lakewood, not being fully addressed yet by the Government.

  10. If course its legal. It covers all non public ,not just Orthodox. Any non public including Catholic or non religious is also covered by the bill. So what is the problem ?

  11. Yes dark unpaved streets. If you go outside like normal children especially during winter, its extremely dark out and very dangerous for children to walk.

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