Two years after forcing the state to fund the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, New Jersey school districts will again have the chance to recoup some of the costs of enforcing the law, although unlikely anywhere near the full amount.
The state Department of Education has reopened the grant process for districts to seek reimbursement of costs related to the law, which requires them to promptly investigate accusations of bullying and establish prevention programs.
The total available is $1 million, according to the state, the same amount as last year. That was just a fifth of the nearly $5 million requested by districts, and they are likely to come in high with their requests again.
The funding is aimed to recoup costs that include stipends for mandated anti-bullying specialists and coordinators, schoolwide assemblies and programs, or even restitution to parties involved in an incident.
The money wasn’t slated to be available at all, either last year or this. Last year, it took a formal challenge from the tiny district of Allamuchy arguing that the new law amounted to an unfunded state mandate.
The state’s Council on Local Mandates agreed, and ordered funding be provided without saying how much. Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature reached agreement on a $1 million grant program, and 370 districts ultimately made requests and received some cash from the state, ranging from $36 to $38,000.
In this year’s budget, Christie did not include any new money to cover district costs, and it was the Democrat-led legislature that added the $1 million to the final budget.
With applications due by February 19, the latest program asks districts to break down their costs into five categories, with conditions, including that no-cost alternatives were unavailable:
Personnel — Personnel expenses to implement the law are limited to the functions of the district anti-bullying coordinator, school anti-bullying specialist.