The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, praised the state of Pennsylvania as it nears passage of a bill (SB 10) that increases funding for school safety from $500,000 to $8.5 million.
The law will expand the schools eligible for the school safety grant program to include all public and private schools, including parochial schools. The law also will widen the scope of the school safety grant program, creating a new competitive grant that dedicates funds to training and paying school resource officers and school police officers.
Pennsylvania’s Safe School Legislation is unique in that it allows schools to use the funding for personnel. Other security grant programs such as the Federal Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant and New Jersey’s non-profit security grant only allow the purchasing of target hardening equipment. Pennsylvania’s law was developed to help those schools that do not have funds available for safety personnel, allowing 60 percent of the funds for officers and 40 percent for safety measures such as electronic monitoring and conflict resolution programs.
Initially sponsored by Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson County), the bill passed unanimously before the full Pennsylvania State Senate in April and the State House of Representatives on Monday evening.
OU Advocacy-PA worked alongside the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference to ensure that non-public schools would be included in the bill. OU Advocacy Associate Regional Director for Pennsylvania Michelle Twersky met with Pennsylvania legislators, stressing the importance of school safety, particularly to Jewish schools.
“We consulted with local Jewish day schools and found that their top issue after tuition affordability is security—but many lack the funding for school safety,” Mrs.Twersky stated. “In addition, only schools in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are eligible for the Federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Grant and the funding is limited to the purchase of target hardening equipment. Pennsylvania’s expanded school safety grant program will assist all schools throughout the state in making sure they are safe and will help them hire a security guard in addition to any target-hardening equipment they may need.”
Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs and outreach for OU Advocacy, said, “Pennsylvania’s Safe School Legislation will establish a great precedent for school safety. By adding funding for security personnel, this law will help administrators, teachers and students focus on education rather than worry about safety. We look forward to Governor Tom Corbett approving the program for Pennsylvania’s families and plan to work with legislators in other states to replicate this model.”
The OU Advocacy Center has long worked on the issue of safety and security for our schools and communities and regularly engages with Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and other senior officials to ensure the timely and practical flow of information important to our constituents’ safety. In addition, OU Advocacy joined with other major national organizations and Congressional allies to create the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NGSP) in 2005, which has secured more than $100 million for nonprofit organizations, including synagogues and day schools.
(YWN Desk – NYC)