State legislators and advocates gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday rallying in support of increasing non-public school safety grant funding as lawmakers negotiate the state budget.

The program helps nonpublic schools acquire necessary safety and security equipment.

While funding is included in the executive budget and the Assembly one-house, the state Senate is proposing the highest funding at $90 million. Last year, the number stood at $45 million.

The push is gathering significant support amid a spike in hate crimes stemming from the Israel Hamas War. A wide range of advocates say with the increased threat of attacks and extremist hate-crimes against both Jewish and Muslim communities, they hope doubling the funding available will protect students and make them feel safe at school.

Maury Litwack is CEO of advocacy organization the Teach Coalition. They fight for fair government funding for Jewish day schools and yeshivot, but Litwack says they serve as an advocate for nonpublic schools in general.

“No one should be deterred from practicing their faith, yet too many Jewish and Islamic students hide their faith, too many parents fear for their child’s safety,” he said.

The push to double funding comes at a time when he told Spectrum News 1 that spike in hate crimes is putting those schools in an impossible position.

“We need the government to be responsible for it because right now your schools are making difficult choices, which is do they pay for a security guard, an elective, an additional teacher, a fence, a camera?” he said.

Leading the charge in the state Legislature is Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris.

He said at a time of extreme division, the effort has brought people together.

“We had leaders of the Jewish community, the Muslim community, Catholic representation there as well,” he said. “What we heard from all of them is they needed help securing their schools from potential hate crimes.”

He explained the additional $45 million he is asking for would augment a program that already exists, and would go toward a variety of services, some not covered in other safety grant programs. That includes additional security guards.

“It can go toward security guards, hardening the buildings, providing additional alarms, hardening the windows,” he said. “There is a number of other security type measures that could be funded.”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay pledged his conference's backing for increased security funding, but accused Democrats of fostering an environment that made such funding necessary.

“I don’t know about the exact dollar amount, but we should be able to send our children to school safely,” he said. “I could get into problems we have with law enforcement and my colleagues across the aisle being soft on crime, but whatever amount would do to make sure our children can go to school safely, I support.”

Despite the inherent politics of Albany, Litwack stresses that bipartisan support as well as collaborations across faiths should send a clear message as negotiations get underway ahead of the April 1 budget deadline.

“In times of division the Jewish community, the Islamic community, the Catholic community, the Christian community are coming together,” he said. “Students cannot learn in an environment in which they are afraid.”