TRENTON, N.J. – Following a staggering report by the USA TODAY Network that revealed dangerous bus operators were able to continue transporting students, Assemblyman Ron Dancer introduced legislation to close loopholes and improve oversight of the school transportation system.
Dancer’s bill (A5400) establishes a school bus safety coordinator in the Department of Education to oversee the school busing industry and ensure the safe transportation of students.
“The safety of our school children is my number one concern. Unscrupulous busing companies have fabricated safety inspections, hired drivers with criminal histories, and resorted to deceptive practices that put lucrative contracts ahead of student safety,” explained Dancer (R-Ocean). “The school transportation system needs to be reformed to correct deficiencies and stop dangerous operators from busing our children.”
Currently, multiple state agencies oversee busing regulations without much coordination. Dancer’s bill would designate a single person to be the point of contact with enforcement authority and the responsibility to work with the education department, school bus drivers, school bus contractors, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
“This bill will strengthen accountability, make the system work for the safety of our students, and prevent corrupt companies from continuing to take our tax dollars,” said Dancer.
Under the bill, the public would be able to access a database that includes bus driver violations and penalties. Additionally, school transportation contracts would no longer simply go to the lowest bidder. The school bus safety coordinator would have the power to block boards of education from awarding contracts to a company that is found to have poor performance records or committed multiple violations.
Dancer’s legislation is awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee.