Is Security a Private Matter?
NYC already provides its non-public schools with textbooks and transportation. Is security next?
A New York City proposal that public funds should be used to buy security equipment for private schools could have ramifications far beyond the five boroughs if passed. There are close to 800 non-public schools in New York City and public funding for them is limited. New York state law requires school districts provide publicly funded transportation and textbooks to non-public school students if parents request them. States such as Ohio and Pennsylvania also provide for non-public school textbooks and other items.
Security, however, is another matter. Although hundreds of New York City public schools now have taxpayer-funded security cameras, non-public schools must pay for security measures themselves. Brooklyn city councilman Simcha Felder aims to change that—to the consternation of many in the public school community. "It's been a battle for a long time," he says.
Felder helped introduce a bill in 2008 to direct the NYC Department of Education to provide non-public schools with the same security services as public schools, including cameras, safety officers, and metal detectors. The bill has since languished without a hearing, but that didn't stop Felder from campaigning on it during the recent City Council election. He plans to reintroduce the bill this year.
Amy Sechler, director of legislative affairs at the Washington, D.C.–based National Association of Independent Schools, says the New York City idea is unique, and intriguing. If successful, it could catch on in other states—particularly where non-public schools already receive public funding of some sort. "In certain pockets, where there is a very open dialogue with public and private officials, it might work," she says.
Felder acknowledges some opponents worry about increasing non-public school funding, especially when spending is already tight. But he wants to make sure that non-public schools have the same security as everyone else—and he's adamant that it's the right move. "It means having to spend money, but that doesn't mean it's not a good thing," he says.