June 2, 2015
By Alan Lubin – Founder of BALCONY
(the Business and Labor Coalition of New York)
"Cuomo's tuition tax credit plan is a dagger in the heart of public education. As a coalition, BALCONY believes it is critical to support our public schools." Governor Cuomo's proposed education tax credit (the so-called Parental Choice in Education Act) is a threat to the future of public education in New York.
The proposed tax credit would set a precedent that state government is not responsible for the success or failure of our public schools. Also, that government is not responsible for the investment, maintenance, and support of the system that has and will continue to educate the majority of our children.
In effect, the proposed tax credit gives the governor political coverage for the dire state of our public schools by offering an incentive to wealthy New Yorkers to send their children to privately funded schools. Perhaps most detrimentally it would allow wealthy political donors to circumvent the constitution and essentially promotes a two-tiered education system.
Additionally, the tax break would be an unjustifiably costly subsidy, one that New York taxpayers cannot afford, especially considering the urgent needs that exist in areas like infrastructure and public education itself.
Under the governor's latest backdoor voucher tax credit scheme, hundreds of millions of dollars that should go to public schools and services would be siphoned off… and that money would go to fund a shady private school tax credit that would benefit the privileged elite.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has made the passage of an education tax credit a top priority in the final weeks of this year's legislative session. In promoting the credit the governor has embarked on a campaign-style tour that has included visits with community and religious leaders. The one place he seems reluctant to visit is a New York public school or a public forum which is not controlled by his staff.
According to Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), "This tax credit is just another scheme to reward billionaires. It gives them the power to send money to their favorite private schools, and takes a big chunk out of their tax bill. At the same time it drains money from public schools. Supporters can use all the smoke and mirrors that they want, but in the end this is a scam that will hurt public school students."
It is difficult not to regard this campaign as the governor's attempt to save face on public education while also lining the pockets of his most wealthy donors and shirking his own responsibility as the head of the New York Legislature to look after and care for our public education. A system which remains extremely underfunded (one that he himself has consistently referred to as "failing").
Our public education system is increasingly under attack, especially by anti-public education hedge fund managers and Charter Management Organizations who were major donors to the Governor's election and re-election campaigns.
According to Barbara Zaron, co-chair of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV), "This commitment to public education as the cornerstone of the American democratic process drives us to affirm our opposition to any form of governmental aid to elementary and secondary schools under the supervision or control of any religious domination. Consistent with this traditional opposition of Reform Judaism, we oppose the proposals to allow tax credits for tuition paid and/or scholarships awarded to students of non-public schools."
Members of the business community have also voiced their opposition, including Cynthia DiBartolo, Chairman of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and Executive Board Member of BALCONY, "as a woman who was educated in parochial schools in New York City, who became a successful business entrepreneur, and remains an engaged and active citizen, I believe that this tax is unfair and unnecessary.