When people talk about public-private partnerships, this may not be what they had in mind.
This week, the New York City Council voted in favor of Intro 65A, a bill that takes $20 million in taxpayer money and pays for security officers for some private and religious schools. Some of those schools include yeshivas, Catholic schools and any private institution that has more than 300 students. Bigger schools would have the ability to hire more guards and be reimbursed with city cash.
The bill passed in a 43-4 vote. An initial version of the bill would’ve put to the side $51 million in public money and given the schools safety agents from the New York Police Department.
New York City Council Member David Greenfield introduced the bill in 2014, citing increasing violence against Jewish people and Muslims as reason for the bill.
Critics of the City Council’s actions were quick to pounce and said the city needs all the money it currently has to help public entities.
“The bill being considered today will reach into overstretched city coffers to reimburse schools that already charge tuition to their students,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Advocacy Director Johanna Miller in a statement.” To suggest that these private, sectarian institutions that receive monetary support from their students and private donors should be financially supported by the city as well is not only bad policy, it is an example of unconstitutional government support for religious institutions.
“In a city as diverse as New York, where many public school kids lack access to working computers, it would be shameful for city leaders to offer precious taxpayer money to private institutions.”
Miller also cited New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, which includes the NYCLU, on working to try and reduce the presence of police officers in schools. She stated that the policy “has led thousands of New York City kids into courtrooms and jail cells for over 15 years.”
Other organizations, such as the Alliance for Quality Education, focused on public institutions that lack the financial means being looked over in favor of private ones.
“New York City public schools continue to be underfunded. With this decision, council members have prioritized private institutions over public schools, which serve all of the city’s children,” read the AQE’s official statement. “Beyond this lapse in judgment, there is a question of the bill’s constitutionality, considering that the New York state constitution prohibits public funding to private institutions where religious tenets are taught.”
The organization also said this could lead to a slippery slope of public money being put into private investment groups.
The AQE, in collaboration with groups such as Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and the Coalition for Educational Justice, sent a joint letter to the City Council calling elected officials’ actions “irresponsible” and sarcastically referred to them as “progressives.”
“Public school children and families are in desperate need of resources and staff, including guidance counselors, advisors and restorative justice coordinators, to ensure public schools provide safe and supportive environments that keep students in school and on the path to success,” read the letter. “This bill negates the strides we’re attempting to make away from policing in schools by providing money for even more security guards.”