In a statement today, the New York State Catholic Conference criticized the pending state budget for not including the Education Investment Tax Credit. Catholic bishops spent time in Albany a few weeks ago to lobby for including the credit in the 2014-15 state budget.
The credit would let people who donate money to public or private schools to receive a one-to-one income-tax credit for up to 75 percent of their state tax liabilities. Currently, those who donate to schools only get to write off a portion of the total on their taxes. Supporters have said changing the law would boost donations and help schools in difficult fiscal times.
Last November, thousands of kids, parents and educators rallied in White Plains for the tax credit. Cathleen Cassel, regional superintendent of Catholic schools for Rockland and a former Catholic school principal, said at the time that the law “is about fairness. Our faith calls us to stand up as part of our social justice (stance), and I think this is a wonderful experience for the children, to put their faith in action.”
Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said the organization is “extremely disappointed” the tax credit didn’t make it into the budget. Many rank-and-file members of the Legislature — both Republicans and Democrats — and religious, business and labor leaders supported the measure, he said in a statement.
“Education policy in New York State is broken, as ever more money is poured into the public school system with little to nothing to show in the way of results. This proposal would not have taken a dime from public schools. It would have increased desperately needed private funding to help tuition-paying families, and programming in public schools.
“This year’s state budget provided our leaders with a historic opportunity to give thousands of children across the state a chance for a better life through quality education. Today, there are thousands of inner-city and working class families who are understandably angry and who just saw their hopes dashed,” Barnes said.
Opponents of the credit said it would increase disparities between wealthy and poor districts and would give contributors too much influence over education policy. New York State United Teachers‘ website described the tax credit as “thinly disguised private voucher scheme that would divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget at a time when 70 percent of districts are below 2008-09 state funding levels.”
The union said the intent of the tax credit would be to use public money to help finance the costs of private education, but it is being “disguised as charitable giving.” Local taxpayers would have to make up any funding shortfall, the group said.
(Journal News file photo of thousands of private school students, with teachers and staff who packed the Westchester County Center in White Plains last November for a rally in favor of education tax credits.)