State Funds Sought For Private School Background Checks

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Last month, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) submitted testimony in support of Christian schools to Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger and Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Helene Weinstein.

Bill S.3335-Kaminsky/A.4652-Rozic would require that prospective employees of nonpublic schools—including Christian schools—submit fingerprints through the State Education Department for the purpose of criminal background checks. At this writing, the bill—which passed the New York State Senate in 2019—has been reported from the Senate Education Committee to the Senate Finance Committee; it has not yet been acted upon by the Assembly Education Committee this year. NYCF supports the legislation, which would enhance the safety of students. We are, however, concerned about the cost of the proposed fingerprinting. According to the bill memorandum, the cost of such fingerprinting for an applicant whose fingerprints are not already on file with NYSED is $99 (or $135 in New York City). New York’s Christian schools and other nonpublic schools may not have budgeted funds for the fingerprinting of prospective employees. Furthermore, employees of nonpublic schools typically make significantly lower salaries than employees in similar roles at public schools.

Accordingly, we requested that the 2020 New York State Budget allow funds from New York’s Nonpublic School Safety Equipment (NPSE) Grant to be made available for prospective nonpublic school employee fingerprinting costs. The stated purpose of the NPSE Grant is “to provide religious and independent schools with reimbursement for expenditures related to certain school safety and health expenses.” Protecting children from potentially dangerous school employees is a key part of school safety, and allowing nonpublic schools the flexibility to use NPSE Grant funding for the fingerprinting of prospective employees would facilitate school safety.