Written by Don Byrd
The recently passed Florida budget contains a $654,000 grant for the improved safety of Jewish schools, following a recent increase in targeted threats and incidents of anti-Semitism. The taxpayer funds would be used to protect thousands of Jewish students, but as the Miami Herald reports, some are questioning whether funding for the schools of only one faith is appropriate.
Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative counsel, told the Miami Herald that while responding to violent threats made against religious minorities is extremely important, the budget item raises constitutional questions.
“The fact that the funding singles out one religion raises serious concerns about unconstitutional discrimination, whether intentional or not,” she said in a written statement. “Many groups are seeing a spike in violent threats in recent months — not only Jews, but also Muslims, Sikhs and immigrants. If the state sees responding to these threats as a priority public safety issue, funding should be available to all similarly targeted groups.”
Proponents counter that the rise in threats aimed at Jewish schools justifies the faith-specific grant.
Teach Florida’s executive director Mimi Jankovits said the goal in Florida is to expand security money to other private schools in future years, but said it was limited to Jewish schools this year because of the rise in security threats.
“We had an immediate need we wanted to address,” she said. Although the Orthodox Union sought the money in Florida, it will be available to K-12 Jewish schools of any Jewish denomination.
Florida’s Governor has yet to act on the budget, and is authorized to veto specific grants.