NEW JERSEY - A bill to provide security funding for non-public schools passed its initial vote in the New Jersey State Assembly’s education committee last Thursday. If the bill becomes law, it will provide $25 per student for all private schools in the state to be spent towards increasing levels of security.
“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, the bill’s co-sponsor, told Hamodia. “Those students should be afforded the same protection as those in public schools.”
The committee voted unanimously that the Secure Schools for All Children Act should progress to the Assembly floor for debate and a vote.
Schaer said that despite broad support for the legislation, finding a way for the financially strapped state to cover the estimated $4 million cost would present a serious challenge.
The bill, which was proposed by Assemblymen 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.
Agudath Israel, the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federation and the Catholic diocese also testified in favor of the proposal.
Several organizations representing the state’s teachers voiced opposition, claiming that funds should not be diverted from public schools.
Supporters are working to accelerate the progress of the bill through both houses before the state’s June 31 budget deadline.
“If you believe in the value of the bill then it’s not just another program, but about children needing to be protected,” said Avi Schnall, director of Agudah’s New Jersey Division. “If it doesn’t get through in this term, that will mean another whole year without security funding.”