Attendees at the 12:30 p.m. Mass at St. Jude’s Church, Canarsie, had a surprise guest last Sunday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped by and spoke prior to the liturgy as part of a church tour to rally support for the Education Investment Tax Credit (A2551).
“Your choice in education is everything,” Cuomo said. “The best thing you can do is get your children an education.”
While the state is doing a lot to improve public schools, the governor explained that some people choose to send their children to a religious school.
“We want you to have the ability to choose,” he said.
But he also pointed out that it’s not a choice if parents don’t have the money to afford a private or religious school.
The Education Investment Tax Credit proposal would raise funds for public schools and strengthen organizations that provide scholarships to children attending private and parochial schools. It is designed help families afford to send their children to the schools of their choice. It also offers some reimbursement of money that teachers pay out of pocket for school supplies.
Cuomo, who attended St. Gerard Majella School, Hollis; Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood; and Fordham University, said he chose to send his three daughters to public schools.
“There is no right or wrong here,” he said. “It should be your choice.”
Cuomo said he didn’t think it was fair that people who choose to send their children to private schools also are taxed for public schools that they do not use.
“We have a very good chance of passing this bill,” Cuomo said.
He urged all in the congregation to log on to investined.org and send an email to their Assembly members urging support for the Education Tax Credit bill.
One Assembly member, Roxanne Persaud, was sitting in the congregation and announced that she had changed her vote from “no” to “yes.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “For me, it wasn’t right off the bat that I agreed with it.
“But the Church made sure I understood what was required” for children to have a choice in education.
Prior to speaking at St. Jude’s Church, the governor made stops at St. Mark Episcopal Church in Crown Heights; The Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Bedford-Stuyvesant; and the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights. From St. Jude’s, he traveled to Yeshiva Shaare Torah in Sheepshead Bay.
At St. Jude’s, he spoke to a predominantly black Caribbean congregation that sends many of its children to Our Lady of Trust Academy at the former St. Jude School. It serves a community where four Catholic schools once existed.
Arlene Barcia, principal, said the tax credit would encourage scholarships that “would lessen the financial burden on our current families as well as give potential families the opportunity to have a choice in their children’s education.”
She said that the parents “sacrifice greatly” to pay the tuition for a parochial school that creates a family atmosphere and allows a true partnership between teachers and parents.
In his remarks, Cuomo said that fewer Catholic schools exist today because of the costs of running them.
Earlier in the week, the Queens-born governor attended a rally in Hempstead, L.I., with New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan and numerous parents, students and elected officials to call on the legislature to pass the Act this session.
Cardinal Dolan told the gathering “This is not just a Catholic issue – it is an issue for every parochial, private or nonpublic school that is devoted to the success of their students. Our students are our greatest treasure and the Parental Choice in Education Act is all about supporting them no matter where they go to school. We need the legislature to stand with us on this issue, just as Governor Cuomo has, in order to ensure that it becomes law and we can support all schools this year.”
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano added that the proposal “will provide much needed fairness and relief to thousands of families that send their children to these schools. I urge the state Senate and Assembly to pass this Act before the end of the legislative session.”
Four thousand students, or approximately 15 percent of all students in New York State attend non-public schools, providing an educational alternative in virtually every corner of New York State. There are currently 178 failing public schools in New York State, many of which have been failing for 10 years or more.