(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Speaker Vincent Prieto, Joseph Lagana, Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Annette Quijano and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to establish a state aid program for security services, equipment or technology to ensure a safe and secure school environment for students attending nonpublic schools received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor's desk.
"School security has become a paramount concern in recent years, particularly in light of the many tragedies we've witnessed across the country and around the world," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "While we've taken many steps to increase security efforts throughout our public schools, much more needs to be done, and we cannot overlook the needs of students in nonpublic schools in the process."
The bill - the Secure Schools for All Children Act (A-2689) - was approved by the Assembly in April.
"All children deserve safe schools," said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). "This bill is fiscally and morally responsible and, quite simply, common sense."
"We need to consider all our children when it comes to school security," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "All our children deserve secure schools."
"All students should know they're in the most secure school environment we can provide," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "We have a responsibility to provide them that assurance."
"We've taken steps to ensure safe and secure public schools, but all children need safe and secure schools," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This is the right thing to do."
"We've seen too many tragedies to rest easy," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "All children need a safe and secure learning environment."
"Nonpublic schools are part of our educational system, and our students who attend them need security as well," said Quijano (D-Union). "This is a logical step forward."
"We know all children require safe schools to maximize their educational experience," said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). "This is a must."
Under the provisions of the bill, the superintendent of schools of each school district in which a nonpublic school is located will confer annually with the chief school administrator of the nonpublic school.
The superintendent and the chief school administrator will agree upon the security services, equipment or technology that will be provided to the students of the nonpublic school within the limits of available funds.
If the superintendent and the chief school administrator are unable to agree on the security services, equipment, or technology, then the executive county superintendent will make the final determination.
Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, the maximum amount or state support limit which may be appropriated for the purposes of the bill is $75 per nonpublic school student. The amount will be increased each school year by the consumer price index.
Each year the school district will forward to the Commissioner of Education an estimate of the cost of providing, during the next school year, the security services, equipment, or technology required pursuant to the bill and the number for students attending the nonpublic schools located within the district as of the last school day of October of the current school year.
The commissioner will provide state aid to the district in an amount equal to the number of nonpublic school students multiplied by the state support limit.
The bill was approved 78-0 by the Assembly and 39-0 by the Senate.