New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is hard at work trying to push an education investment tax credit through the Legislature, referred to as the Parental Choice in Education Act.
Cuomo is looking to offer a tax credit of up to 75% of individuals or businesses who donate to public schools and non-profits who support public educational programs. In addition, a tax credit of up to 75% would be offered for those who donate to non-profit organizations that award scholarships to students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Cuomo would like to see $70 million be used to provide tax credits for families with annual incomes less than $60,000 for up to $500 in tuition expenses for students sent to non-public and out-of-district public schools.
He is also pushing for another $10 million to be used for tax credits of up to $200 for public school teachers to help them purchase instructional materials and school supplies.
When all is said and done, the plan totals around $150 million.
According to the governor, the goal of his plan is to offer parents more choice in where to send their children to school by helping to keep schools funded, writes Matthew Hamilton for The Times Union.
If it works, and more parents who would have sent their child to an alternative district or charter school choose alternative schooling methods, the result could be complications in admissions for low-income neighborhoods where charter and district schools already compete for students.
While admissions at Catholic schools have caused the diocese to close a number of schools in New York City, other types of private schools, such as Jewish schools, have seen a dramatic increase in enrollment. This has caused many to question the motives behind Cuomo's plan, in addition to why public dollars should be spent on struggling Catholic schools.
"Why is the state promoting enrollment in religious schools?" said Laura Zingmond, who works for the school review website Insideschools, an arm of The New School's Center for New York City Affairs, and a member of the city's Panel for Educational Policy. "It should be neutral on this."
Teachers unions and a number of state lawmakers do not agree with the plan, arguing that it is taking taxpayer dollars away from public schools. For the last two years, the Democrat-controlled Assembly has stopped the bill from coming up for a vote.
"Gov. Cuomo needs to start funding public education instead of giving tax breaks to wealthy donors to private schools," said Angelica Rivera, Parent Advocate and Education Chair of Citizen Action of Western NY and AQE. "The Education Tax Credit is disguised as something that will help all students when it's really just a way for people with money to get taxpayer subsidies. We don't need to fund wealthy donors to private schools, we need to fund our public schools."
However, as political dynamics shift, the bill could stand a better chance of passing this year.