New Jersey Will Soon Award $500 Million in School Safety and Improvement Grants

Over the past year, many state and local governments have passed funding initiatives to improve school safety. Verkada has been paying close attention to these developments. This is the first in a series of blog posts, designed to provide information about how schools in different states will be upgrading physical security using this influx of public money.

New Jersey is one of many states that has committed major resources to school safety. Last November, voters in the Garden State approved a $500 million bond initiative. The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act (NJ S2293) that will help fund education, including $350 million specifically earmarked for school security projects and county vocational schools.

The large public expenditure only accelerates a nationwide trend playing out across large states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan and Florida—the site of a massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, which motivated many legislatures to act.

“These funds would allow New Jersey’s public schools to get cameras, stronger doors that can be used for fortification and better ways to keep our students safe,” State Senator Steve Oroho told the New Jersey Herald before the vote.

While half a billion dollars is a major financial outlay, the total came up short of what many Congress members wanted to allocate. Lawmakers originally passed a $1 billion bill, but Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, arguing that borrowing costs would exacerbate an already-high debt burden, used a conditional veto to cut the amount in half before it went to the ballot.

Nevertheless, the governor stressed the need for increased security at schools when advocating for the measure. “School safety and the world we live in, we can’t ignore that,” said Murphy.

The final initiative passed by a small, but clear, majority, with 53% of voters (representing 1.13 million people) approving the bond. In addition to school safety, it will provide $100 million to improve water infrastructure at various institutions and another $50 million for community colleges.

Additional School Security Funding

In addition to the Securing Our Children’s Future Act, Governor Murphy recently signed another piece of legislation to double school security funding at private schools in New Jersey. Known as Assembly Bill No. 4597, the law appropriated $11.3 million from the Department of Education’s general fund that will raise security aid from $75 to $150 per student, according to NJ Insider.

“A primary and essential function of government is providing security for our residents,” said State Senator Joseph Lagana, a sponsor of the bill. “Nothing could be more important than protecting our children and ensuring parents have peace of mind and full confidence that their schools are equipped to keep students safe.”

Voters have moved to support other initiatives at the local level as well. The Maple Shade School District, for example, passed its own school improvement initiative late last year. The bulk of the newly allocated $49.7 million will go toward building classrooms at Maude Wilkins Elementary School and a gym at Maple Shade High School, among other renovations. But the plan will also fund new security vestibules and interior doors at district schools.

Making Video Surveillance a Priority

Lawmakers in New Jersey have highlighted many different ways for schools to improve safety through the Securing Our Children’s Future Act. Along with stronger doors, access control systems, alarms, screening methodology (like x-ray scanners), increased personnel, and other technological innovations, Congress members have also cited surveillance cameras and monitoring solutions as critical elements to increasing security.

Vigilance is vital in an active-shooter situation. Preventing access to school buildings, through better locks and entry procedures, is always a priority. This is one of the first ways that many schools in the state are expected to implement the funding. But video security systems also greatly help officials monitor the facility’s surroundings for suspicious activity. And if those external lines of defense are ever breached, having a real-time view throughout the premises is invaluable for law enforcement and others working to end the crisis.

Verkada Solutions Help Improve School Safety

Verkada’s cloud-based surveillance cameras have become the leading choice of many enterprises. These modern, full-featured devices are praised by end users for their simplicity, quick installation and ability to retain up to 120 days of footage.

Such features are especially beneficial in the world of education. While most corporations employ large, sophisticated IT departments, public schools rarely have that luxury. So in this environment, using a solution with a simple setup, user-friendly software and minimal maintenance can be a literal lifesaver.

There is also another key benefit to consider: Verkada offers specialized pricing for individual schools and school districts.

Looking (and Planning) Ahead

When it comes to keeping kids safe, New Jersey has spoken. The world has grown increasingly perilous for students of all ages. And with hundreds of millions of dollars now in play, schools across the Garden State would be wise to begin formalizing their proposals now.

This means prioritizing the top ways to upgrade security—through adding video surveillance, implementing access controls, increasing personnel or by other means. Those planning to apply for funding should start researching the appropriate vendors, formulating cost estimates and determining how long any potential projects might take to complete.

Full details of the Securing Our Children’s Future Act grant application process have not yet been announced. But they are sure to emerge soon, and Verkada will be closely following any developments. So please check back often for all the latest about the school safety improvements to come in New Jersey and other states across the nation.

To see how Verkada’s specialized pricing can help your school or district protect students with advanced video security, request a custom quote.