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Jackson council calls on state to fund transportation for private school students

JACKSON – Township Council members are calling on the state to pay for transportation to bring private school students to and from their schools as a state mandate currently requires local school boards to fund that service.

In certain instances, students who attend a non-public school may be entitled to transportation provided by the public school district in the town in which they reside. Public school district administrators may choose to provide a payment in lieu of transportation to the families of non-public school students who qualify for transportation.

During the 2021-22 school year, the Jackson School District is paying $2.79 million to the parents of 2,794 students who attend non-public schools and do not receive transportation ($1,000 per student). District administrators have reported that 246 students are being transported to and from 142 non-public schools.

The school district’s decision to make the payment in lieu of providing transportation means the parents of private school children are responsible for their children’s transportation to and from school.

The Jackson School District Board of Education and the Township Council are separate bodies that act independently of one another.

However, during the April 12 meeting, Township Council President Martin Flemming, Vice President Andrew Kern, Councilman Alexander Sauickie, Councilman Nino Borrelli and Councilman Stephen Chisholm passed a resolution which calls on the state to fund the transportation costs for private school strudents.

“The state has other mandates it is responsible for covering and no matter your opinion on what is driving the rising cost (of private school transportation) to the township, the state should not inflict its bad fiscal policies on municipalities like Jackson which consistently demonstrate good fiscal policy,” Sauickie said.

“I would like to thank Sheldon Hofstein, Hope Drew and Rabbi Mordechai Burnstein for their input on this. … Having spoken to all three, there is united support in having the state assume the costs on a mandate the state imposes. This is another example where we can find consensus and unity and the council and I appreciate all of their input,” Sauickie said.

According to the council’s resolution, state law requires that in certain instances a public school district must provide transportation to students who live in the school district, but attend a private school.

As a result, municipalities such as Jackson, which has a growing number of students attending private schools, face a tremendous transportation cost as a result of the state mandate, according to the resolution.

These transportation costs are not factored into state aid determinations with respect to local school districts, and the requirement to provide such transportation services is a state mandate, which is not paid for by the state and violates a state Constitutional requirement of state mandate, state pay, according to the resolution.

The council concludes by calling on the state to bear the cost of transportation for private school students, according to the resolution.

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