Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Jan. 8 a bill that doubles funding for security in nonpublic schools.
Under the bill, religious and private schools in the state will see security funding increase from $75 to $150 per student. The additional $11.3 million in funding will go to various security measures and upgrades.
“The safety and security of students as well as faculty and staff are of highest priority in all learning environments,” said JoAnn Tier, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Trenton. “Gov. Murphy’s signing of the Security Aid to Nonpublic Schools is heartily applauded and sends the message that affirms that all students count and are valued. Our principals and school communities have developed their wish lists for further security options for their schools and are eager to continue to build a safe environment.”
Organizations such as the New Jersey Network of Catholic Families and New Jersey Catholic Conference – the public policy arm of the state’s bishops – have a long history of advocating for increased funding for nonpublic schools. The amount for security, for example, has increased over the years from $25 per student to $75.
Security has become a growing concern due to a rise in school violence and hate crime incidents, including the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last fall that left 11 dead – one of the impetuses for the fast-tracking of the funding increase.
“Bishop O’Connell, our administrators, educators and parent communities applaud the passage of Assembly bill A-4597 and Senate bill S-3080,” Tier said. “Sincere thanks are extended to Gov. Murphy, the state legislators, members of the NJ Catholic Conference, the diocesan Network directors and the parents and friends of Catholic education for underscoring the importance of the safety of all students.”
In a text message sent Jan. 9 to Gov. Murphy, Bishop O’Connell expressed his thanks for the increased security funding. The governor responded warmly and extended best wishes for a Happy New Year.
Frances Koukotas, director of the New Jersey Network of Catholic Families in the Diocese of Trenton, was among the public, state and school officials of different faiths who came together in Passaic County as Gov. Murphy signed the legislation.
“What an awesome day to come together, united for the safety of all children, regardless of what school they attend in New Jersey,” Koukotas said.
Added Dr. George V.Corwell, director of the NJCC Office of Education, “This was an arduous lift to get this done and to add money during the current school year.”
Kim Chorba of the New Jersey Network of Catholic School Families for the Diocese of Metuchen, said, “This is what we can accomplish when we all work together.”