Do you know if your kid's free bus ride to and from school is required, or just a nice gesture by the district?

When their financial belts tighten, school districts have the choice to pull the plug on what's known as courtesy busing, or charge for the service. Many districts in the Garden State have historically offered complimentary rides to students who live near their schools, even if they're not forced to do so.

Parents in Saddle Brook, according to, as well as those in Somers Point, according to the Press of Atlantic City, have voiced their concerns with board members after busing was discontinued this year for students who live nearby.

State law requires that districts provide round-trip transportation to elementary school students who live more than two miles from their school, and to secondary school students who live more than 2.5 miles away, as well as students with special needs.

"Many schools have lost some degree of state funding and so these dedicated boards and administrators are trying to find every dollar they can in their budget," said Janet Bamford, manager of communications and publications for the New Jersey School Boards Association.

While districts receive per-pupil state funding for transportation, courtesy busing isn't included in the formula, Bamford said. Districts also have the option to charge a fee for the close-proximity busing, instead of scrapping it altogether.

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