Elected Officials, Advocates Demand Increased Funding for School Crossing Guards to Keep NYC’s Students Safe

New York, NY-Today on the steps of City Hall, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Brad Lander, City Council Member and Chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety Vanessa Gibson, along with parents, students, elected officials, and safe-streets advocates from across New York City called for a significant increase in funding for school crossing guards in the City’s FY 2016 budget.

The funds are necessary to expand the number of crossing guard positions, better target dangerous intersections, and improve working conditions. Crossing guard jobs pay poorly, are part-time, and only last 10 months per year, with workers furloughed in the summer months and forced to pay to continue their health care. As a result, the NYPD has a difficult time keeping positions filled, with hundreds of positions currently vacant.

These changes are needed to achieve the City’s Vision Zero goals to eliminate preventable deaths from traffic crashes, ensure a safer Pre-K expansion, and keep NYC’s kids safe.

Speakers at the rally called for the following:

  •  Increased funding to hire more school crossing guards, including improved recruitment to fill the vacant slots that exist. The NYPD indicated that there are 127 vacancies. Local 372, the union representing NYPD crossing guards, estimates that approximately 200 vacancies need to be filled and an additional 300 guards would be required for full coverage. A survey conducted by the Manhattan Borough President’s office in the summer of 2014 of 100 schools above 96th Street in Manhattan suggested that 39 additional guards were needed in that section of the city alone based on locations identified by the school communities themselves. 
  • A more objective process for identifying intersections in need of school crossing guards. A new process that includes both street safety data and community input is needed to guarantee that dangerous intersections near schools are covered and do not go ignored.
  •   Better compensation. Local 372 recently announced successful negotiations resulting in an agreement that the City of New York will begin paying school crossing guards a living wage. The Administration should ensure that this living wage increase is reflected in the FY16 budget.
  •  Year-round health care and an end to seasonal furloughs. These low-wage workers are furloughed in the summer months and forced to pay for their own health care from their meager salaries. This practice should be ended and school crossing guards should receive health benefits year-round. 
  • Raising the cap on hours. School crossing guards are capped by contract at 25 hours per week, and most are only paid 20 hours per week for school drop-off and school pick-up hours. The result is jobs that pay so little that it is impossible to sustain a family, and the positions are very difficult to fill.  The increased hours (between their morning and afternoon school assignments) could be filled with additional Vision Zero pedestrian safety enforcement duties at other nearby hot-spot intersections, or with school support responsibilities in the City’s schools.

“School crossing guards are some of New York City's most essential workers – performing the invaluable task of keeping our kids safe as they travel to school – so it’s outrageous that we've been paying them poverty wages, capping their hours, and doing very little to protect the workers we trust to protect our children”, said Council Member Brad Lander. “Across the city, students are forced to cross dangerous intersections on their walk to school that are not covered by crossing guards – a problem for our Vision Zero efforts, pre-K expansion, and efforts to create and maintain a safe city. If we don’t address this problem head on, we are continuing to put our children at risk.”

“School crossing guards are crucial to street safety around our schools, and Manhattan’s children are especially vulnerable because we have more unfilled crossing guard positions than any other borough,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The city must act to fill existing vacancies, but we also need to raise guards’ pay and deploy additional guards through a data-driven process that includes teachers, parents, and Community Boards.”

“School crossing guards are the lifeblood of public safety for children and educators in our communities,” said Chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson. “They work at dangerous intersections, protecting our children as they travel to and from school. Their headcount has remained low even as new school buildings have opened, enrollment has grown and Pre-Kindergarten options have expanded. To protect the safety of our students, parents and educators, it is critical that we raise the headcount of school crossing guards, expand recruitment opportunities, improve working conditions and increase benefits for our school crossing guards.  I remain committed to working with my Colleagues, advocates and all stakeholders to ensure that we continue to prioritize and value our school crossing guards for their investment and the significant work they do every day in the City of New York.” 

“Our School Crossing Guards work through snow, rain and heat waves; crossing not only school children but their parents and pedestrians," said Shaun D. Francois, President of Local 372, the union representing school crossing guards. "Our members work only 10 months out of the year and are forced to pay for their health insurance over the summer. It’s no wonder why NYPD has a difficult time filling these positions but it doesn’t help that these jobs are only posted in each station house. Our members want to do more to help the Mayor but he has to help us by raising our wages, extending our hours and annualizing our health coverage. Local 372’s job is kids, but the adults need to make sure we hire more school crossing guards so that we can keep the kids safe.”

“Under the leadership of Mayor De Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito, and my colleagues on the Transportation Committee, Vision Zero has rededicated our city to ensuring that people of every age are kept safe. Unfortunately, however, vehicle collisions remain the leading cause of death for children and preteens,” said Chair of the Transportation Committee Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “We must come together to stymie this trend by increasing the number of crossing guards that protect our children. With more guards, better pay, and better outreach efforts we will be able to take yet another step forward to achieving Vision Zero and protecting our most vulnerable”

"Until our streets are effectively designed to protect children and people of all ages and until street safety laws are fully enforced, crossing guards are our last -- and best -- hope for keeping New York City's kids safe in crosswalks,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.

"The city must demonstrate that it values the crucial role of crossing guards in our school communities," said Ellen Foote of Families for Safe Streets and retired NYC middle school principal. "They are the outside eyes and ears, guiding and protecting our most precious resource—our children—as they navigate dangerous city intersections.  The goals of Vision Zero, that our city ensure safe passage for all travelers on our streets, must be reflected in the priorities of our city budget and policies."

“Currently, there are crossings that are not being manned by school crossing guards because the wage, hour, and benefit package is insufficient to attract the necessary amount of personnel,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “Our children cannot continue to be placed in harm’s way because our city refuses to pay crossing guards a living wage.”

"Our children must be protected on crowded streets, and that's where crossing guards come in. I am visiting every school in my district, and the demand for more crossing guards--from parents, teachers and students alike--was one of the top-identified needs," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "We need the funds to hire more crossing guards and identify more dangerous intersections where they can be stationed. We also need to invest in our crossing guards, who keep our children safe, with increased hours and health insurance."

 

 “School crossing guards stand in loco parentis in NYC’s neighborhoods, protecting some of the most vulnerable pedestrians in the city – our children – both by their actions and by the visible reminder their presence gives drivers,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. “As a parent and an elected official, I’m happy to add my voice to the call to increase the number of crossing guards, and to allocate this precious resource objectively.”

“We have no greater responsibility than guaranteeing the safety of our children,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “It is imperative that we ensure that New York City’s streets – particularly those in school zones – are safe. This can be achieved by hiring more school crossing guards with enhanced compensation rates and healthcare benefits. Coupled with a revitalized process for identifying the most strategic locations at which these crossing guards are placed, I am confident these changes would ensure safer commutes to school for our kids.”

"School crossing guards are vital to keeping our children safe,” said Council Member David Greenfield.“I am proud to have authored the law lowering the city-wide speed limit to 25 mph to protect the most vulnerable pedestrians: children and seniors. It is crucial then that we work even harder in securing more funding for those who spend their days protecting our children and safeguarding our streets. Without these guards, we are putting our children at serious risk."

“In District 38, we are experiencing a real resource gap when it comes to crossing guards assigned to our public schools,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “In Sunset Park alone, it is estimated that we would need a roughly 20 percent increase in our crossing guard budget to meet the identified need.  In the spirit of Vision Zero, we must ensure that we provide funding for an adequate number of crossing guards to be paid at a living wage.  I commend Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Lander for their leadership on this pressing budgetary issue, and celebrate the crossing guards that make our communities safer each and every day.”

“Our school crossing guards play such a critical role in ensuring the safety of so many people – especially our City’s children – every day,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “These outstanding public servants need to be paid much better than they are and deserve to receive year-round health insurance benefits so that they and their families can live better.  We must also develop a better process to determine where school crossing guards are needed to ensure that dangerous intersections have coverage.”

"We have a serious shortage of crossing guards. This past month in my district, we had a child hit by a car while leaving school at an intersection where a crossing guard had been requested. Other schools in my district have had crossing guards leave and never be replaced. We need to give crossing guards more hours and year-round healthcare to attract more people to this essential job. This initiative would bolster the work of Vision Zero to lower serious injuries and fatalities in our streets," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.