by Jon Riches and Jenna Bentley

The City of Glendale has created a plan to address concerns over school safety. Last week the city announced that they would be increasing the amount of School Resource Officers in an effort to help protect students. Each of Glendale’s nine high schools will have their own full-time Glendale police officer by the end of the month.

This swift enactment will not increase costs to taxpayers. The city council has expressed interest in funding these officers from the reallocation of existing public safety union representatives who normally use their time politicking and engaging in other activities on behalf of their unions, a practice known as union ‘release-time.’ The remaining funds could potentially come from a vacant position in the council office and a reduction in unrepresented employee pay increases.

For years, Glendale has paid four full-time employees to work exclusively for government unions. While on release time, these employees engage in political activities, lobby government, negotiate higher wages and benefits, solicit new union members, attend union conferences and meetings, and file costly grievances against the City, among other activities – all at taxpayer expense.

By reallocating these employees to perform the public safety jobs for which they were hired, the City of Glendale has taken a fiscally responsible solution to a crisis in our schools. Without having to spend time advancing private union interests, these law enforcement officers can focus on keeping schools safe. As City Manager Kevin Phelps said in a statement released by the City of Glendale, “Schools should be a place where kids go to learn and teachers are able to focus on teaching.” He continued, “With so many tragic school incidents happening nationwide, the time has come that we as city leaders must step-up and do all we can to create an environment, so our students don’t live in fear.”

Cities across Arizona must determine how best to allocate resources to address school safety.  Glendale has taken a sensible first step in finding a solution.

Jon Riches is Director of National Litigation & General Counsel at the Goldwater Institute. Jenna Bentley is Director of External Affairs at the Goldwater Institute.