The Orthodox Union Heralds Historic Security Grant in Florida; Calls on Other States to Follow Florida’s Lead

The Orthodox Union (OU) thanked the Florida state legislature for heeding its call for greater security funding for Jewish schools and called on other states to follow Florida’s lead. On Monday, Florida allocated a first-ever $654,000 for Jewish schools to upgrade security in the FY2018 budget.

Teach Florida and its parent organization, the OU, played a pivotal role in drafting and shepherding the bill through the legislative process. This is the first security grant for nonpublic schools in Florida’s history. Last month, the OU secured a record breaking $40 million in security funding for nonpublic schools in New York State – the largest security allocation anywhere in the country.

The Orthodox Union called on other state legislatures to follow Florida and New York’s lead, particularly in California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, where the state Teach offices are drafting legislation, finding sponsors, and rallying support for security grants.

In California, Teach CA helped draft AB 927 with Assemblyman Marc Levine to establish a $10 million grant to provide security at schools targeted for hate crimes. Thanks to Teach CA’s efforts, AB 927 recently passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support. Teach CA co-chair Michael Buchman testified before the Assembly Budget Committee in support of AB 927.

In Maryland, Teach MD and Maryland Parents for Education helped draft new legislation with Maryland State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk (HB 1661), which would award security grants to private schools and daycares deemed “at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs, or mission.” Teach MD is leading the effort to secure passage of this bill, recently testifying before the Maryland Senate Education Committee on behalf of HB 1661.

In New Jersey, Teach NJS helped pass the first-in-the-state security program for nonpublic schools in 2015. This past year, the state allocated $50 per child for security purposes. Now, Teach NJS is ratcheting up its efforts, urging Gov. Christie and the New Jersey legislature to increase security funding to $144 per child to create parity with public schools. Teach NJS brought Jewish day school parents to testify before the state Assembly and Senate budget committees.

In Pennsylvania, Teach PA created the Safe Schools nonpublic school targeted grant program, which gives funds to nonpublic schools to hire security guards. Now, Teach PA is working with the legislature to expand the program to include the necessary security equipment to keep all children safe.

“The Florida State budget is a tremendous achievement for the Jewish community, and we are very grateful to the legislature,” said Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. “This funding will allow Florida’s Jewish schools to make important security upgrades on their campuses, making a real difference for our children.”

“The OU and its supporters pounded the pavement in Tallahassee for months, and we are grateful that the Florida legislature responded to our urgent request with these historic funds,” said Mark Bane, president of the Orthodox Union. “All children deserve to go to school in a safe environment, and we urge all states to follow Florida’s lead.”

“There is much work to be done around the country to make sure Jewish schools have the resources they need in these frightening times to protect our children,” said Maury Litwack, executive director of the OU’s Teach Advocacy Network. “Using Florida and New York as models, our offices will work with the local communities and legislators in each state to get the job done.”

“This is a historic budget for Florida day schools,” said Dr. Allan Jacob, chairman of Teach Florida. “Next year, children in Jewish schools across Florida will be safer and more secure. In Florida, we demonstrated what is possible when the Jewish community works with legislators on both sides of the aisle to protect our children. I hope other state legislatures will follow our example.”