It was recently announced that two more of our Catholic academies, one in Rego Park, and the other in Queens Village, will shut their doors after the current semester. The reasons are all too familiar – rising costs and decreasing enrollment!
It’s a shame to watch one school after another close. Catholic schools provide a quality education. They generally fare better in academic achievement than public schools. They also save the taxpayers millions of dollars because as these schools close, more desks must be added to public school classrooms, where the cost of an education per capita is much higher.
You would think that the government would do whatever it could to sustain private schools. But the political pressure from the public school teachers unions, that wants a monopoly on education, has intimidated lawmakers to such a degree so that no relief is in sight.
The 2018-2019 New York State budget could be a place to start. There are three areas that the State could help. First, in terms of tuition assistance: 529 Plans were recently expanded to help families pay tuition for grades K-12. However, the state may require you to not only pay back the tax on the amount you previously deducted, but you may also have to pay state income tax on any earnings. We must ensure that citizens are not penalized when taking advantage of the expanded 529 Plans and that they can obtain the full tax benefits of 529 accounts for K-12 tuition that are available to families for college tuition.
Second, in terms of Mandated Services Aid: Despite the support of legislators last year to restore the “instructional time” formula upon which our schools receive mandated services reimbursement, Gov. Cuomo vetoed the measure. Unless this formula is restored, many of our schools will suffer a cut in their state funding.
Third, and finally, various support services. Lawmakers are considering changes in multiple programs including pre-kindergarten; after-school programs; transportation; health, safety and security; and STEM. We need to ensure that Catholic schools continue to benefit from these programs.
Let your state representatives know that you want them to support Catholic schools. To stay in touch with these pressing issues and to make your voice heard on these matters, log on to www.nyscatholic.org and join the Catholic Action Network.