New York City will spend nearly $20 million next year to pay for unarmed security guards at private and religious schools, despite criticism from outside groups.
The city council voted 41-4 on Monday in favor of the expenditure, which will reimburse private and religious schools with more than 300 students for expenses related to hiring security personnel.
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.”
Various good government and civil rights groups criticized the decision as wasteful and potentially illegal.
“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,” said Johanna Miller, advocacy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Councilman David Greenfield, who represents a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Orthodox Jewish population, said the bill would ensure safety for all children.
“This monumental legislation recognizes that every child, regardless of where they go to school - whether public or private, secular or religious - deserves to learn in a safe environment,” he said in a statement.
Greenfield had originally proposed spending $50 million to have regular public school guards, who are part of the police department, patrol private schools, according to local media reports. The bill, which reimburses schools for the cost of hiring private guards, was the result of a compromise with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.