Legislature passes bill to allow recurring funding for private Jewish school security
Joe Gruters looks to make School Board races partisan again.

The bill’s passage in the Senate was far less divisive than in the House.

Legislation granting lawmakers the option to make security funding for private Jewish day schools a recurring part of the state budget is cleared for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature.

Senators voted 39-0 for the bill (HB 1109), which would direct the Florida Department of Education to establish a regular funding model for guards, cameras, fencing, impact windows, perimeter lighting and related security costs at Jewish schools.

On its own, the bill establishes no monetary commitment.

Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters, the measure’s sponsor in the Senate, noted that there has been a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents since the Oct. 7 attack on western Israel by Palestinian Hamas terrorists.

He also said that a doubling in Jewish day school enrollment over the past five years necessitates a more reliable funding source.

“This is something both chambers unanimously supported as recently as the Special Session in November,” Gruters said, referring to a $25 million earmark approved that month to pay for added safeguards at 134 Jewish day schools in the state.

DeSantis also set aside a separate $20 million pot in December to be split evenly between Jewish day schools and four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Ahead of the unanimous vote Tuesday, Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Tracie Davis said the December apportionment “opened the door” to HBCU-specific provisions similar to what HB 1109 proposes for Jewish schools.

“We landed at a good space with our HBCUs — didn’t get everything we asked for, but we definitely opened the door to that,” she said.

Davis asked Gruters to confirm that the HB 1109’s language only provides that the Legislature can opt in the future to make Jewish day school security funding recurring, not that it establishes recurring funding now. Gruters said yes.

The bill’s passage in the Senate was far less divisive than in the House, where six Democratic lawmakers voted “no” last month after sponsor Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, referred to comments Gainesville Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson made about the bill as “garbage.”

Hinson, who also challenged the bill at a committee stop in January, incorrectly asserted that HB 1109 “gives $50 million” to Jewish schools while no state funding is given to public school security.

“I need to call attention to that,” she said. “Fifty million dollars (for) 100 private schools. School safety for all 67 counties? Not one dollar.”

Fine, who is Jewish, lambasted Hinson for misrepresenting his legislation. According to a House staff analysis of the bill and statewide school expenditures, the Legislature has given $1.2 billion to public school districts since 2018 to improve security provisions on campuses and hundreds of millions more for school hardening.

Hinson and Reps. LaVon Bracy Davis, Ashley Gantt, Patricia Hawkins-Williams, Michele Rayner and Felicia Robinson voted against the measure. Both Bracy Davis and Hawkins-Williams had previously voted “yes” on the bill in committee.

Robinson later told Florida Politics she voted “no” not because she opposes the bill’s aims, but due to the contempt Fine showed Hinson, the chamber’s oldest Democratic member.

“For Rep. Fine to stand there on the floor and call (her) garbage, that was triggering. And it wasn’t addressed,” she said. “Everybody was going to vote up on the bill, for the most part. It wasn’t a bad bill. But this was about disrespect. It happens quite often, and it gets to be emotional.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Fernando M Martinez

    March 5, 2024 at 11:58 am

    If these are private schools, why don’t they pay for PRIVATE security?

  • JD

    March 5, 2024 at 8:14 pm

    Perhaps they should address the Nazi’s and hate groups as a better solution.

Comments are closed.


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