If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. That’s our motto when it comes to trying to achieve justice for parents who send their children to private and parochial schools. The struggle has gone on for decades and we are so close to achieving a significant victory.
You’ll recall a couple of months ago when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature were putting together the State Budget. We were “assured” by the governor that an education tax credit would be part of the process. The proposal would not have given money directly to schools or students. It would merely provide a tax credit to people who donated to a scholarship fund such as our own Futures in Education that helps students attend Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens. It also would have reimbursed all teachers for money they spend out of pocket for classroom supplies. There was something for everyone in the package.
Despite the assurances by the governor to the New York State Bishops, the deal fell through at the last minute. Public school advocates, who oppose even such indirect help for private schools, twisted the arms of politicians, apparently using strategies unknown to Gov. Cuomo, and the bill sank to the bottom of the political ocean.
This week, the state’s bishops have launched a state-wide public relations campaign to remind Gov. Cuomo of his promise. After all, the Governor and his own siblings attended some of the finest Catholic schools right here in the diocese. Shouldn’t every kid have the same chance?
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, flanked by children in Catholic school uniforms, is shown in a television ad saying: “Governor Cuomo had assured us that he would fight for an innovative plan to help these students. But when the state budget was done, we were left out. Governor Cuomo, we’re glad to hear you say the education tax credit should be passed, that you get it. But now’s the time to get it done.
“Please don’t forget us, Governor. Pass that education tax credit, so every child can have a great school. We’re all counting on you.”
And the chorus of kids chime in: “Governor Cuomo, don’t let us down!”
A companion newspaper ad that will run in papers throughout the state, continues the theme with the headline: “Governor Cuomo: Don’t Let Us Down.”
That ad begins in papers in Western New York State where the Diocese of Buffalo is facing an especially daunting prospect of closing ten schools this June. The Governor has been particularly concerned about that part of the state and has announced economic recovery plans for the area. Part of that process certainly should be the prospect of helping parents afford the schools of their choice.
In the closing weeks of the current Legislature, there is still time to breathe new life into the education tax relief bill, which already has passed the State Senate. Gov. Cuomo is running for re-election. His Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino already has pledged his support for the proposal. Cuomo would be smart to get ahead of the issue and not allow it to become a potentially explosive campaign issue.
We don’t need to explain to the governor exactly how to proceed. He has proven to be an astute politician who knows how to get things done. It would be nice if he spread some of that political know-how around so that all the children in the state have a fair chance at getting a decent education and not become subservient to a single system of schooling.
Governor, don’t be foolish enough to assume you have the Catholic vote. Don’t tell us one thing and do another. We know you can get this done. You’ve already said you’re with us on this issue! Now, let’s get it done!