NYC Must Prioritize School Safety Funding for All Students

By Bill Holmes | April 9, 2024

Students at every school deserve to feel safe – so why are some schools in NYC denied funding for school safety?

Schools across New York City receive critical funding for school security — except for public charter schools that opened in private spaces. Under current law, these schools are forced to divert money and resources out of the classroom to provide the basic security every other school has.

It’s not right – and at a time of escalating concern around gun violence in our city, it’s time to fix this inequity. Mayor Adams and the New York City Council can help.

School safety forms the foundation for effective learning, emotional well-being, and community cohesion. It’s fundamental to parental piece of mind, boosting student attendance and engagement, and reduces teacher attrition, which strengthens school community, ensuring students succeed, closing achievement gaps. New York City leaders recognize this fact, which is why all public schools are provided with safety agents, and non-traditional public schools have access to reimbursement funds to cover the cost of security guards.

In both cases, security guards provide protection from external threats, support and enforce a culture of safe schools and help de-escalate issues to avoid exposing students to the criminal justice system. Security guards are critical to keep learning environments, and the students within them, safe. These measures also come at a pivotal time as New York City schools face uncertainty on school-related violence. Recently, school safety agents prevented an altercation between students from escalating, and leaders in Albany are calling for increased security funding for religious schools that are grappling with the conflict in the Middle East.

At Global Community Charter School (GCCS), our student population mirrors the 72,000 charter school students who get shut out from the program — the overwhelming majority of whom come from low-income households in traditionally underserved communities. School security and student safety are our top priorities, but the failure of New York State to equitably fund charter students overall, compounded by the added challenge of paying our facility costs out of the per pupil funds, leads to making difficult choices.

Unlike other schools, which have funds to provide security guards and maintain after-school programs, GCCS and other non-traditional public schools have to cut corners on things like after-school programming and student enrichment to keep all students safe.

The most recent study from the Independent Budget Office shows a per pupil funding gap of over $5,000 per pupil compared to a traditional public school. That is an injustice for Albany to fix. However, the New York City Council and Mayor Adams can demonstrate their commitment to equity and safety for all students by improving the law that protects some students but leaves too many on their own.

Thankfully, the City Council already has a solution that could ensure all schools have the resources to keep students safe without having to sacrifice school programs. Finance Chair Justin Brannan crafted a bill, Intro 532, that would lower the arbitrary floor that excludes schools with fewer than 300 students and include public charter schools in private spaces, like GCCS. The legislation was championed by Mayor Adams when he was Brooklyn borough president and found broad support throughout the legislature.

The current status quo is unsustainable, puts student safety at risk, and forces schools to take money away from the programs that enrich our students’ education experience. The City Council and Mayor Adams have the power to fix this and ensure all New York City schools have equal access to security measures by supporting Intro 532.

All students deserve to feel safe and free to focus their energy on their academic growth – and Chair Brannan’s legislation would allow them to do just that.