The New York City Council has approved legislation that will allow for the spending of $20 million taxpayer dollars for security guards at private and religious schools across New York City.
Sponsored by Councilman David Greenfield, the bill was approved in a 43-4 vote.
The city is expected to offer $19.8 million to go toward the hiring of at least one security guard at each non-public school, which includes yeshivas and other religious schools that enroll at least 300 students, which offer instruction in accordance with state education law and serve students between pre-kindergarten and high school. Non-public schools would receive reimbursements for all expenses related to the hiring of unarmed security guards.
In order to obtain the reimbursement, all security guards hired must be registered with the state, paid a union-level wage of at least $18 an hour, and be specifically trained for working in schools.
Costs that are included under reimbursement include expenses associated with guards working during school hours, school-related after-school programs, and athletic events.
Schools will be required to apply for reimbursement and must then show appropriate documentation that prove the legitimacy any reimbursement requests.
In a statement, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, “Students across our city deserve a safe learning environment, no matter what community they come from or where they attend school. With this bill, we’re reaffirming that message and showing our commitment to all students in New York City.”
Greenfield said the schools need the additional security because they could become targets for terrorism or anti-Semitic violence, as anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim crimes have seen an increase this year, writes Diane Lore for SiLive.
However, civil liberties groups and those concerned with the city’s budget opposed to the bill, saying so much taxpayer money should not be given to religious and private schools. They argue that the schools charge students tuition and should be using their private budgets to pay for security. They go on to say that the $20 million is much needed to help the public school system and that government funds should not be mixed with religious institutions.
Others say that unarmed guards will not be helpful during a terrorist attack or hate crime because the guards will still be required to contact the NYPD in the event of an emergency, writes Erin Durkin for The New York Daily News.
At an unrelated event, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters he would be happy to sign the bill into law. Once that happens, it will be the first time that religious and non-public schools have received taxpayer-funded security, writes Gloria Pazmino for Capital New York.
An additional security guard will be given to each non-public school from a state licensed security guard agency. Although it was previously suggested that these guards be NYPD school safety officers, it has been decided that they will in fact be privately contracted employees. That version would have come at a cost of $51 million and was shot down by de Blasio’s administration.
The total number of security guards each school receives will depend on the total number of students enrolled.
The bill is expected to go into effect on April 1, 2016.