A battle in the state of New York continues to rage with only a month left in this legislative session. Governor Andrew Cuomo is pleading with the Legislature to bring a controversial tax credit to the floor for a vote. Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions are largely opposed to the Parental Choice in Education Act, which, if passed, would provide $150 million in education tax credits to assist private schools and provide incentives to public and private schools, writes Joseph Spector, reporting for the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Cuomo told reporters in Brooklyn, “…part of the game they play in Albany is everybody says, “Oh, I’ll vote for the bill if the bill comes to the floor.’ But they never put the bill on the floor, so you never really know who supports it and who doesn’t support it. And I’m saying to them this year: Stop playing the game.”
Assembly Democrats say the bill is focused on increasing the minimum wage and providing tuition assistance to students who are in the country illegally, called the DREAM Act.
“We are focused on issues like the DREAM Act and passing a higher minimum wage,” said Assembly Democrats’ spokesman Michael Whyland. “There is not enough support for the credit.”
Cuomo has been attempting to tie the education tax credit to the DREAM Act, which is an Assembly Democrat priority, but which is opposed by Senate Republicans. Now both bills are stuck in limbo.
Cuomo’s bill would provide tax credits to low-income families who send their children to private schools, and would give scholarships to to low- and middle-income students who attend a public school outside their district or a private school. There would also be incentives to public schools for after-school programs and tax credits to public school teachers for buying materials for their classrooms.
The governor’s team says about 15% of all New York state students attend private schools. The credit, they say, will help struggling private schools by helping low-income families pay for the programs. The tuition for parochial schools in New York can be as high as $8,500 per student per year. About 75 parochial schools in the state have closed in the last five years.
To qualify for the tax credit a family must have an income of less than $60,000 annually. They would receive up to $500 per student for tuition expenses to nonpublic schools. The governor believes the credit would assist around 140,000 children and 82,000 families. Teachers would get a tax credit of up to $200 to support their purchases of materials and supplies.
In an appearance at Yeshivat Sha’are Torah in Brooklyn this week, Cuomo received rousing applause from a room full of students and Jewish community leaders, according to Jacob Kombluh of the Jewish Political News & Updates. Cuomo told the crowd that his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, had a strong relationship with the Orthodox Jewish community and announced that his father would have been proud that day. The governor’s remarks were enthusiastically received by Agudath Israel leaders who assisted in the organization of the rally.
“As we saw here today, Governor Cuomo is making the cause for justice in education, for all students, a high priority. This is a battle Agudath Israel of America and Jewish activists have been waging for decades going back to Rabbi Moshe Sherer,” Community activist Chaskel Bennett told JP. “It will take real work to pass this legislation but this time things seem different, we have the strength and leadership of New York’s Governor leading the charge and that changes everything.”
On the same day, Cuomo visited four churches to rally voters to support his plan which would benefit families with children in private and religious schools.