NEW JERSEY - A bill to provide security funding for non-public schools is set to be brought for a vote in the New Jersey State Assembly this coming Thursday. If passed, the bill will provide all private schools in the state with $25 per student to be spent towards increasing levels of security.
“This bill will benefit every mosad in New Jersey,” said Avi Schnall of Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey division. “That it was brought to a vote is a very positive sign and we hope for a strong turnout from the community, as that can make a real impression on the committee.”
The bill, which was proposed by Assemblymen Gary Schaer and Joseph Lagana, both Democrats representing the Bergen and Passaic areas, would make the funding a fixed-budget item which would steadily adjust with inflation. As such, it would be immune to annual re-evaluation or cancellation as is the case with many funding items.
Public schools in the state currently receive an average of $75 per student for security needs. This bill is the first effort in New Jersey to fund security in private schools.
“There is a reality that Jewish institutions, as well as those of other religions, are potential targets [of violence], and we want the students of our parochial schools to be safe,” Assemblyman Gary Schaer told Hamodia. “Also, many shuls and yeshivos have taken steps to be more secure. We want to relieve that financial burden to some small extent. Those students should be afforded the same protection as those in public schools.”
He said that while he expected little opposition for what the bill itself proposed, finding a way for the financially strapped state to cover the estimated $4 million cost would present a serious challenge.
If the legislation clears Thursday’s education committee meeting, it will advance to the Assembly floor for a vote.
Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-Ocean), one of the bill’s key supporters, told Hamodia that the bill could help to “even the playing field” between private and non-private schools.
“There is always an argument against bills like this that it is diverting money away from public schools, but I see that as nonsense,” he said. “These people pay property taxes that fund public schools and they deserve funding for something as basic as security.”