Council passes private school security bill

Council passes private school security bill
By Tom Momberg

The City Council passed a bill Monday that would establish a program to reimburse private schools for costs for security guards—allowing Catholic schools, yeshivas and other private schools to provide strong security for their students.

The measure passed 43 to 4, with bipartisan support, and now awaits Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature to go into effect in the next school year.

The bill outlining the $20-million-a-year program to reimburse up to 300 private and religious schools with more than 300 students for hiring private security agencies listed as qualified providers was introduced shortly after Thanksgiving.

The bill picked up 45 Council sponsors, though some of those sponsors were absent when it came time to vote.

The legislation that passed was a compromise on a previous $50-million proposal, which would have funded and mandated the NYPD to provide school security agents for as many of the city’s over 600 private schools as wanted to take part.

Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the Council’s Education Committee and a former teacher, has publicly been in opposition to any program that would put taxpayer money toward security at private institutions. He cast one of the four nay votes on the bill.

Dromm could not be reached for comment on the recent Council vote on the bill, but has said previously the city should not put funding toward private schools at a time when so many public schools are in need of additional money.

The bill was one of the first pieces of legislation Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) got to vote on since being inaugurated into the Council. He said the legislation and bipartisan support on the bill reflected growing public concerns that religious institutions may be a target for terror or other violent acts.

“Private schools or schools of any other denomination will be able to apply for funding to provide security on the basis that all the children in this city are our children and they need to be protected,” Grodenchik said. “We live in uncertain times.”

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.