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New York City to spend $20 million on security guards at private and religious schools

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York, and Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of the New York City Council, in March 2014. (By Peter Foley/Bloomberg )
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New York City will soon start spending millions of public dollars a year to provide unarmed security personnel at private and religious schools.

The City Council voted 41 to 4 on Monday to spend $19.8 million during the first year, starting April 1,to reimburse non-public schools with at least 300 students for expenses they incur hiring security guards. The guards must be unarmed, registered with the state, paid a “prevailing” rate, and trained to work in elementary schools, according to the council.

According to the New York Daily News, there are more than 800 non-public schools in New York City, with a total of about 250,000 students. More than 110,000 of those students attend Jewish yeshivas.

The initiative was introduced by council member David Greenfield, who represents parts of Brooklyn that have a number of Jewish schools and who has been pushing for it for several years. He had originally wanted the city to pay regular security officers who are part of the police force, at a cost of at least $50 million, but that idea was changed in a compromise with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio’s — and the council’s — willingness to spend public money for unarmed security guards at private schools has drawn criticism from a number of groups, including the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which notes that the city could have found better ways to spend  taxpayer dollars and that public money has no business being used to help private and religious schools.

In an interview with WNYC, a New York City flagship public radio station, here’s what Greenfield said about why he wanted to push the measure:

“I introduced this legislation originally post-Sandy Hook, when it was clear that nonpublic schools do not have the protections that the public schools had,” he said, referring to the Connecticut school shooting in which 20 children were killed and six adults. But he acknowledged the timing makes it especially poignant.”It’s another reminder how the world has changed in the last few years that terrorism is on the rise. And so it’s another benefit of having security, but that was not the impetus.”
Greenfield represents Borough Park, which includes many Jewish schools, but he said Muslim and Catholic schools also supported the legislation. He said they are all concerned about bias crimes. According to the NYPD, there have been 267 hate crimes reported through November 22 compared to 288 during the same period last year.