Once again, federal officials have announced multimillion-dollar grant awards and New Jersey appears to be a loser, based on allocations from the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP).
Fourteen school districts in Arkansas will share a total of more than $5 million while eight New Jersey communities will divvy up only $3.2 million from the nearly $72 million distributed to improve the safety of schools across the country by the Department of Justice last week.
According to the United States Census Bureau as of July 2021, the total population of Arkansas was estimated to be around 3,025,891 while New Jersey has 9,267,130 people or more than three times as many residents.
Arkansas’ $152.9 billion economy includes $9.2 billion in state and local spending, while New Jersey’s $703.7 billion economy invests $41.1 billion on state and local government services.
The latest Census Bureau report on education spending per pupil, showing data from the 2018 fiscal year and released on May 11, 2020, indicates that New Jersey invested twice as much money in children. New Jersey’s per-pupil education spending of $20,021 was almost double the $10,139 that Arkansas spent.
The Justice Department implemented a uniform system of evaluating the information that applicants submitted, but Arkansas representatives in Congress were evidently far more diligent about pursuing funds for their state.
On April 26, 2022, some lawmakers announced that the Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS) located within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was accepting applications for its 2022 School Violence Prevention Program, but none of them represent New Jersey.
The 2022 COPS Office School Violence Prevention Program is a competitive program that provides funding directly to states, local governments, and other public agencies to be used to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety programs.
Such measures include coordination with law enforcement, training for officers to prevent student violence, installation of metal detectors, locks, lighting, other deterrents, and technology for expedited notification to police during emergencies.
“I may be skeptical about the efficacy of some of those things, but I am very confident that more money from the Justice Department should come to New Jersey than goes to Arkansas,” said Lisa McCormick. “Our students and teachers deserve to learn and teach without fear of violence in the classroom, but our taxpayers also deserve relief from local property taxes, which is what this grant money really means.”
“From outside threats to internal conflicts, violence has no place in our schools,” said McCormick. “Districts face a range of challenges and significant costs related to school safety.”
“These federal resources for Audubon, Bloomingdale, Elizabeth, Fort Lee, Middletown Township, Nutley, Pleasantville, and Secaucus may allow for the implementation of strategies that advance a safe and healthy learning environment that provides peace of mind for parents, students, and teachers and ultimately supports improved scholastic outcomes,” said McCormick.
The COPS Office is making 235 awards, totaling almost $72 million, under its School Violence Prevention Program but only eight of those are in the Garden State.
McCormick said that New Jersey is not the only state that got a raw deal. Four districts in New York shared a total of only $1.2 million from the School Violence Prevention Program.
Overall in 2022 alone, 18 states have received more than New Jersey in federal support from the DOJ for state and local crime-fighting efforts, fund thousands of victim service programs, help communities manage sex offenders, address the needs of youth in the system and children in danger, and provide vital research and data.
“Such states as Alaska, with its population of only 736,081, and Oklahoma, which has only 3.96 million residents, received more money from the U.S. Department of Justice than New Jersey in the 2022 fiscal year,” said McCormick. “Other states with smaller populations that received greater allocations of federal money this year include Maryland, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Arizona, Washington, and Virginia.”
McCormick said, “New Jersey has a poor record of receiving a fair share of money from federal allocations because the state’s congressional delegation is mired in corruption and politicians have other priorities, such as steering funds to their corporate benefactors and political bosses.”