More than 250,000 kids attend 800 non-public schools across the city and now, thanks to Intro 65, a legislative bill sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield and pushed by OU Advocacy-TeachNYS, the City of New York will pay for security guards for many of these schools.
“Religious communities are facing especially heightened concerns in the wake of so many horrible events around the world,” emphasized Maury Litwack, OU Advocacy’s Director of State Political Affairs. “It is crucial that all students are protected regardless of what kind of school they attend.”
The bill, sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield and supported by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the entire City Council, will be voted on Dec. 7 and is expected to go into effect in April. The bill will pay for a security guard for non-public schools that have 300 students or more. The agreement caps the spending on the program at $19.8 million in the first year but allows for future increases as needed based on the growth of the program.
“Nothing is more important than our children’s safety. This legislation recognizes that all children, regardless of where they go to school, deserve to learn in a safe environment,” Greenfield said in a statement.
The victory is a result of more than two years of intense lobbying by OU Advocacy-TeachNYS, the nonpartisan public policy arm of the Orthodox Union. In April 2015, OU Advocacy-TeachNYS launched the New York City School Safety. The Coalition, which specifically backed Intro 65, included a wide array of other groups like the UJA-Federation of New York, the Archdiocese of New York, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and the Islamic Schools Association of New York.
Each group mobilized its constituents to reach out to their city council members in support of the bill. More than 10,000 emails were sent and 5,000-6,000 phone calls were made to City Council Members, according to Jake Adler, New York Director of Public Policy for OU Advocacy.
Hundreds of parents also rallied by the steps of City Hall to get the measure passed.
The argument was a simple one according to Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union.
“The safety of our children is not a political issue; it’s an issue of basic decency and fairness,” he said.
Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov of Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim was one of 30 rabbis who signed a letter in support of the bill that was sent to City Council Members.
“We live in a crazy world where even our children are not safe,” reflected Rabbi Nisanov. “If you want to attack with the greatest damage, a religious school would be a target.”
The bill will also help larger schools that already pay for their own security guards, like the Yeshiva of Flatbush, a. Rabbi Seth Linfield, the school’s executive director, said the exact figure of how much money the school would save wasn’t yet worked out, he was pleased with the passing of the bill. Though he pointed out that even with security guards, Jewish schools need to be vigilant.
“While security agents provide an important physical presence and act as a deterrent to would-be trouble-makers, the core of security planning is as much in deterrence, prevention and training as in detection and response,” Rabbi Linfield said. “That makes for a less newsworthy story—and that’s the way we like it.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.