Student transportation eligibility is strictly regulated by law (N.J.S.A. 18A:39 – 1 et seq. ) and regulations ( N.J.A.C. 6A:27 – 1.2 and 1.3). Boards of education have little discretion over who is transported unless the community pays to transport students who, by law, do not have to be bused. Such busing is referred to as non-mandated or courtesy busing.
By law, public school students must be provided transportation if they live beyond two and a half miles for high school students (grades 9-12) and beyond two miles for elementary school students (grades K-8) or if transportation is required by the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). When regular public school students are remote from school within a resident district, nonpublic school students must be provided transportation or aid in lieu of transportation if they meet the remote from school mileage above and live less than 20 miles from their school of attendance, attend a nonpublic school operated not for profit located within the state of New Jersey, and meet the entrance age requirement of the resident district board of education. The maximum expenditure for the transportation of nonpublic school students cannot exceed $884 for the 2011-2012 school year. For the purpose of determining eligibility for student transportation, measurement must be made by the shortest route along public roadways or public walkways between the entrance of the student’s residence nearest the public roadway or public walkway and the nearest public entrance of the school which the student attends.
The responsibilities of a board of education are limited to educational functions. They are not required by law to provide busing for students who closer than the mandated distances, even for safety reasons. Case law has long held that safety along public roadways and walkways is a municipal responsibility. As an example of this, pursuant to section 40A:9-154.1 of state statutes, school crossing guards are appointed by the municipality and are under the supervision of the chief of police or other chief law enforcement officer.
District boards of education may, however, provide transportation for students who reside less than remote distances from their schools in accordance with their local policies and at their own expense. Boards of education may provide non-mandated transportation and charge parents for the service. Municipal governments may also contract with boards of education for this transportation and charge the parents. This transportation service is called subscription busing.
There are areas under the law and regulations on transportation that local boards may govern by local policy. It is important for parents to know the provisions in law and administrative code, as well as the local district policy. DOE does not have the authority to waive the law, regulations or local board policy. Citizens can affect local policy and local budget priorities by expressing opinions at board of education meetings.
Furthermore, pertaining to the efficiency ratings :
Transportation Efficiency Calculation
The school transportation efficiency plan sets a standard level of efficiency which all school districts are encouraged to achieve. That state standard is set at 120 percent of vehicle capacity. In other words, each district would have to use some of their vehicles for more than one route each day in order to achieve this standard.
A district’s efficiency rating (vehicle utilization) is calculated by dividing student ridership by vehicle capacity. The District Report of Transported Resident Students provides the data used for this calculation.
Vehicle capacity is calculated:
- Utilizing 90 percent of the total number of seats available for district use. Ten percent set aside of seats is allowed for in this calculation to accommodate non-mandated ridership or other local conditions, which may prevent 100 percent utilization.
- Vehicles used exclusively for the transportation of special education students with special transportation needs and/or special education students without special needs who are transported outside the district are not included in this calculation.
Student ridership includes:
- Eligible resident district regular public, nonpublic, and charter school students, and in-district special education students who do not have special transportation needs (i.e. students receiving mandated transportation pursuant to NJSA 18A:39-1);
- Students from other (joiner) districts for whom the host district provides transportation services;
- Pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade students who reside less than remote from school;
- Students receiving non-mandated transportation because they would be required to walk along routes designated as hazardous by the board of education pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:39-1.5 if they were not transported; and
- Students in all grade levels whose parents or the municipality pay for non-mandated transportation (subscription busing).
Student ridership calculation does not include:
- Students in grades four through 12 who reside less than remote from school and are not receiving transportation for reasons of hazard pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:39-1.5 or whose parents or the municipality pay do not for the transportation (subscription busing).
- Nonpublic and charter school students whose parents receive aid in lieu of transportation; and
- Special education students with special transportation needs and special education students without special needs who are transported outside of the district riding on vehicles excluded from the vehicle capacity calculation.