TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie recently signed into law two bills that affect pupil transportation services statewide.
The first bill, A355, establishes a permanent inter-district public school choice program. Under the program, arranging to-and-from-school transportation is now the responsibility of a student’s district of residence.
Previously, a student’s choice school district provided and paid for transportation, and it was entitled to state aid for that service. The choice school district also listed all of the students attending its schools who received transportation on its District Report of Transported Resident Students (DRTRS).
With the new law, a student’s district of residence is not only responsible for arranging the transportation to and from school, it must also pay for that transportation; consequently, it will receive state aid for transportation services.
Moreover, the district of residence will list the students living in the district and attending approved choice schools on its own DRTRS. The choice school district will no longer list any out-of-district students on its DRTRS.
Choice school districts have already made arrangements for transportation of their out-of-district students for the 2010-11 school year and resident school districts have not budgeted for this transportation, according to Dot Shelmut, acting director of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Student Transportation. Since the law took effect immediately, choice school districts will bill students’ resident school districts for transportation services that were provided after the law’s enactment.
The second piece of legislation that was signed into law, A2137, redefines residency for children placed in foster homes.
Under the bill, children placed in foster homes remain residents of the school districts in which their parents or legal guardians live. The Department of Children and Families is responsible for the provision of transportation for the first five days of school after a determination is made regarding a child’s educational placement.
After five days, the child’s resident school district becomes responsible for arranging and paying for the child’s transportation to and from school, if the child is eligible for mandated transportation services.
The law applies to any children removed from their parents’ or legal guardians’ care and placed in foster homes, or any child moved from one foster home and placed in a different foster home after the enactment of the law on Sept. 9, 2010. Children in existing placements remain the responsibility of the school district in which the foster home is located.