A report recently published by New York City’s Independent Budget Office showed that the number of School Safety Agents (SSAs) had reduced to levels lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The report shows that the number of SSAs had reduced by nearly 25%, decreasing from 5,500 in 2019 to 4,100 as of February 2023.
The city has slashed the number of SSAs it hires, with Mayor Eric Adams reducing their budget size. In Adams’ budget proposal, in the next fiscal year, School Safety Agent vacancies will be reduced by 282. In the last financial year, 550 vacancies were eliminated. The budgetary contribution towards School Safety Agents will be reduced for the second fiscal year since Adams became mayor.
In 2019 and 2020, a $395 million budget was set aside for SSAs. This figure shot up in 2021 when the School Safety Agents were provided with a budget of $427 million. As things stand, this year’s expenditure will amount to $356 million. The SSA budget cuts show the Adams Administration intends to keep their numbers at the current level, without expanding their numbers.
School Safety Agents have been part of the New York City public school ecosystem for years. Even though they are NYPD employees, they do not carry firearms. Their presence at schools has created a divide in opinion with some highlighting their importance while others seek a different approach.
Hank Sheinkopf is the spokesperson for Teamsters Local 237, the trade union that represents School Safety Agents. “This has got to be a priority,” he said. “What is more important than protecting school children?”
“We warned the city two years ago. Only more School Safety Agents can protect our city and our schools,” he said. “How many more young people will be shot, or stabbed before politicians understand what so many New York City mothers know: we need more School Safety Agents.”
During Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mayorship, the prospect of moving School Safety Agents from the NYPD to the Department of Education was touted. However, Mayor Adams decided to keep the School Safety Agents under the NYPD. Those who support the move of SSAs away from under the NYPD applaud the mayor’s reduction in their budget as a move in the right direction.
Mona Davids, the founder of the NYC School Safety Coalition, is a constant advocate for schools to have adequate SSA staffing in order to create a safer environment for school children. She had an interview discussing school safety on March 15th with PIX 11. Speaking as a representative of the Safety Coalition, Davids said they found the recent gun violence perpetrated by and affecting school-going teenagers disturbing. “We are very alarmed,” she said. “This situation is not going to get any better.”
Davids called on Mayor Adams to fulfill his campaign promise to ensure public safety. The continued reduction of the number of SSAs is something she was upset about. “We want more School Safety Agents in schools,” she said, pointing out that thousands of students have spoken positively about the need for School Safety Agents.