Keep Your Word, Gov!

In his 2008 visit to the Catholic University of America, Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about the essential role that Catholic schools play in the life of the Church and in the life of our country. He said: “Countless dedicated religious sisters, brothers, and priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society,” explained the pope.

And yet, in New York – children are being denied their rights to a Catholic education. They are denied a good Catholic education due to the fact that once again, education tax credits to help Catholic school parents are being denied, despite overwhelming support from over 100 organizations (the vast majority of which are secular, both business and non-profit).

Families simply can’t afford to pay more and more tax dollars to support public and charter schools and also send their children for a faith-based education.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his campaign for re-election, stated: “the Education Investment Tax Credit is a matter of justice … that’s the way I see it.” Apparently reneging on these words and his assurance to the Catholic Bishops of the State of New York, once again education tax credits were not included in the state budget.

If the education tax credits are passed, the benefits to all students, those in private schools, Catholic and other faith-based schools, charter and public will be immense. Dr. Timothy McNiff, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of New York summarizes the benefits:

“The legislation will help all children regardless of where they attend school and the bill helps all teachers, regardless of where they teach. Also, lawmakers recognize that New York is a diverse state and that we have a diverse school system – every part of which needs support. Most importantly, countless children, especially children from low- and middle-income families, desperately need access to a better education and additional support in their schools. By providing additional support in schools and to families, more children will be able to break the chains of poverty and will be able to look forward to a promising future. This is not only good for those children and families, but good for our society and the state’s economy.”

Among the specifics of the bill is a provision that would include up to $150 million in tax credits in the first year following enactment, growing to $300 million by the third year and thereafter.

In fairness, half of the tax credits would be set aside for donations to scholarship entities and the other half for donations to public education. Classroom teachers in public and private schools would also be provided with a $200 direct personal income tax credit for their out-of-pocket expenses for both classroom supplies and materials.

Last year, despite a promise from Gov. Cuomo, last-minute, behind-the- scenes politicking was allowed to doom the fate of the proposal. The state’s hierarchy and parents felt that they were stabbed in the back by the representatives they had elected to represent them because of good old politics-as-usual shenanigans.

If this bill is not supported again, more and more children will be denied a quality education and probably more Catholic schools will close as fewer people will be able to afford them.

Even if you have no children in schools, realize the importance of Catholic education for the New Evangelization as well as in the development of the moral fabric of our nation.

Contact the governor at 518-474-7516 and let him know your feelings. Don’t let Catholic schools and families get ignored once again.