Saland Fights For School Safety Provisions In The Budget And Wins

Stephen M. Saland

April 10, 2008

Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie) today announced that critical funding for the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability (OSPRA) and School Resource Officers (SROs) was restored in the State Budget. Saland was sharply critical of former Governor Spitzer’s proposal to cut funding for this investigative unit within the State Education Department (SED). He pledged to not only restore the cut, but to provide additional moneys to expedite the proceedings and clear up the backlog of cases. "Simply stated, Spitzer’s proposal placed children at risk", Saland said.

Senator Saland was the author of the law which requires fingerprinting and criminal history background checks on all prospective public school employees. That same law also requires that any allegation of physical or sexual abuse by a school employee or volunteer against a student be immediately reported to law enforcement authorities. OSPRA was created within SED to handle review of background checks and reported cases of abuse.

OSPRA had sought an additional $600,000 in the State Budget for more personnel to help address its significant backlog of cases which have more than doubled since Senator Saland’s law went into effect. Instead, the Executive Budget proposal cut OSPRA’s budget by $500,000 or nearly one-third of its operating costs which would have critically hindered their efforts to review cases alleging sexual misconduct. Additionally, the Executive Budget proposed to eliminate funding for SROs -- State Police officers who maintain a police presence on school campuses and act as counselors to teenagers, offer advice to staff and investigate crimes.

"As Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I was astounded the former Governor had reduced funding for the investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct by school employees, and proposed to remove School Resource Officers from New York’s schools," said Senator Saland. "I simply could not let that travesty stand and, as a result of my efforts, the $500,000 cut in OSPRA’s funding was restored and we added an additional $600,000 to address the serious backlog of cases and to process cases more swiftly. The budget also restored SROs in our schools. There can be no higher priority than the protection of children and these actions should give parents far greater peace of mind for the safety of their children in school."