NEW JERSEY - A bill that would significantly increase security funding for non-public schools unanimously passed the New Jersey state assembly on Thursday. If implemented, it will raise the amounts allotted to schools from $25 to $144 per student. The vote was hailed by advocates of the Jewish community.
Assemblymen Gary Schaer and Joseph Lagana, both Democrats representing the Bergen and Passaic areas, introduced legislation last year that made security funding for private schools a fixed part of the state’s budget. It passed easily and was signed into law. Now, Assemblyman Schaer and a team of seven co-sponsors have introduced the present legislation, known as “The Secure Schools for All Children Act,” which would raise the funding level to equal the average amount awarded to public school students.
“New Jersey has an equal obligation to protect all of its children, be they public school students, yeshivah students, or whether they attend parochial schools of any faith,” Schaer told Hamodia after the bill’s committee passage earlier this month. Despite the difficult financial situation in the state, he said that given the increasing threats to schools, “tough choices” would have to be made among other budget items to ensure the protection of students.
Rabbi Avi Schnall, Director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey division, said that funds awarded over the past year have been used by many mosdos to install security cameras and reinforce windows and doors, but that this increase would allow many larger institutions to hire full-time security guards.
“We are very excited about this development,” he told Hamodia. “This battle was victorious, but the war is not over. We must now focus our efforts on the senate and governor’s office to ensure this bill becomes law.”
Grants must be used exclusively for security needs and all expenditures will be under the supervision of each district’s superintendent.
“All children in our state are equal regardless of race or religion or whether they attend public school or private, and all deserve the same consideration when it comes to their safety and security,” said Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center.
Similar legislation to help increase security in private schools in New York City was signed into law in January.
A companion bill has already been drafted for debate in New Jersey’s state senate.