One of the most pivotal challenges we now face is closely tied to our efforts to improve public education and to reduce drug abuse and gang violence: we must make our schools safe.
Under the leadership of Chancellor Rudy Crew, we are turning the school system around, replacing a culture of unaccountability with a culture of performance. After years of the City not knowing how $8 to 9 billion of the taxpayers' money was being spent, the Chancellor has courageously implemented a system of school-based budgeting, so that we can finally make sure every dollar goes where it should -- for textbooks and teaching, instead of disappearing into a bureaucracy. Our gains have given us the confidence to introduce new programs like Project Read, Project Smart Schools, and Project Arts, with the confidence that we're making a real difference in students' lives.
But no matter how many new schools we build, no matter how many creative programs we implement, none of this matters if our children feel threatened in school. School must be a haven for learning, a sacred place. Each day, when parents turn their children over to the custody of the school system, they essentially enter into a contract with the school system. We must fulfill this moral obligation.
Unfortunately, even though we have made dramatic reductions in crime -- especially in many of the neighborhoods that used to be considered the most dangerous -- the safety of our schools has not improved on pace with the rest of the City. As a result, in some parts of New York City, the most dangerous part of the neighborhood is the school and the area around the school. Some schools have a palpable feeling of intimidation and fear in the hallways and classrooms -- an environment in which it is very difficult to teach or learn effectively. That's unacceptable.
We have made substantial progress in confronting this problem already. The NYPD and the Board of Education have expanded DARE (Drug Awareness, Resistance, Education) and GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) throughout the day and into after school hours so that our children can learn the dangers of drugs and gangs and the self-esteem required to say "no" to them. We are also expanding Drug Free School Zones from 40 to 100 sites -- a move which will be completed this week -- and expanding Safe Corridors for Children from 120 to 240 sites. Children must be safe walking to and from school, and once inside the schools we have to make sure that they are out of the reach of drug dealers.
But now there is another critical step we must take -- a step that I have been urging over the last four years. As we confront gangs, drugs, and violence throughout our society, we must now give police officers a greater role in keeping our schools safe.
Nobody is better trained or better prepared for this job than the New York City Police Department, the most professional and experienced crimefighting organization in the world. That is why I believe that the more than 3,000 School Safety Officers should have the support, supervision and guidance of the NYPD -- particularly in schools with the most violence and serious crime.
The police can make it clear that drugs, gangs, knives, and guns are not only unacceptable but illegal. And in addition, this is the age at which students can learn to build a partnership with police officers, so that in the future our communities will know that they can turn to our police officers for protection, and our police officers can do the best possible job because they have an optimal understanding of the needs and concerns of our young people.
Now is the time to make our schools safe -- to forge the best educational environment in our schools, to teach our students to respect the law, and to ensure all our parents that their children are safe. This task is of the utmost importance. The fulfillment of our moral commitment to the parents and children of New York City cannot wait any longer.