Photo: Students gather around Governor Cuomo and Cardinal Dolan.
Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced the Parental Choice in Education Act at a rally at a Westbury community center, May 12. The Act aims to support and protect alternative school options for parents and students across New York State. It provides for $150 million in education tax credits annually that will provide:
1. Tax credits to low-income families who send their children to nonpublic schools,
2. Scholarships to low- and middle-income students to attend either a public school outside of their district or a nonpublic school,
3. Incentives to public schools for enhanced educational programming (like after school programs); and,
4. Tax credits to public school teachers for the purchase of supplies.
The governor and other speakers at the rally, including New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan urged the NY state legislature to pass this act to expand educational choice throughout the state.
“Education is the greatest gift that a parent can give to their children – and it is also one of the most personal decisions that a parent can make. That’s why we need to support parental choice in education,” Governor Cuomo said. “By rewarding donations that support public schools, providing tax credits for teachers when they purchase classroom supplies out of pocket, and easing the financial burden on families who send their children to independent, parochial or out-of-district public schools, we can make a fundamental difference in the lives of students, families and educators across the state. The legislature must pass this Act this year, because families deserve a choice when it comes to their child’s education.”
Watch a video of the rally here.
“This is not just a Catholic issue,” said Cardinal Dolan. ”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.”
Rabbi Dovid Kupchick, Judaic Studies Principal at the Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway, said, “I am proud to be joining Governor Cuomo in full support of the Parental Choice in Education Act. This proposal would mean a badly needed boost in support for parochial schools in New York – schools that provide one-of-a-kind and enriching educational opportunities to young students across our state. The Governor is right to stand up for parents and students on this issue, and I am calling on the state legislature to join us by passing it into law this year.”
Also speaking at the rally was Steven Portillo, an eighth grade student at St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School, Westbury, who said the act would “open the doors of a quality education” to others. ”My education is especially important to my Salvadorian parents who came from very humble beginnings and they believe that quality education is what’s going to give me an opportunity to succeed and to follow my dreams in the future.”
“St. Brigid’s has really helped me to grow as an individual,” he added. “I’m just so grateful for this. Not everyone gets this lucky. I really hope that everyone gets this opportunity like I did.”
According to the information released by the Governor’s office, 400,000 students, or approximately 15 % of all students in New York State attend nonpublic schools, providing an important educational alternative in virtually every corner of New York State – and especially so in communities where the existing public schools are failing. There are currently 178 failing public schools in New York State – many of which have been failing for ten years or more.
Despite their importance as alternative options for parents and students in failing districts, many parochial schools in New York State are experiencing financial hardship, and parents can face steep costs to enroll their children in such schools. Statewide, more than 75 parochial schools have closed in just the last five years, and average tuition can reach as high as $8,500 per student annually.
The Parental Choice in Education Act could help support important alternatives for parents across the state – especially important for low-income families and families living in overcrowded or failing districts. Details include:
Family Choice Education Credit
This $70 million portion of the Parental Choice in Education Act will provide credits to families of nonpublic school students. Families with incomes below $60,000 per year would qualify for up to $500 per student for tuition expenses to nonpublic and out-of-district public schools. This will benefit approximately 140,000 children and approximately 82,000 families across the state.
Education Scholarship and Program Tax Credit
This portion of the Parental Choice in Education Act includes two components. The first provides $50 million in credits to support scholarships for low-income and other students in grades P-12 who attend nonpublic schools. The second provides $20 million in credits to fund educational programs at public schools and supporting not-for-profit organizations.
$67 Million in Scholarships for Low-Income Students Attending Private Schools in Grades P-12: This tax credit totaling $50 million will expand access to nonpublic schools for families who may not be able to afford tuition by funding $67 million in scholarships to help low-income and other students attend private or out-of-district public schools. Individuals and businesses can receive a tax credit for up to 75 percent of their donations made to not-for-profit organizations that award scholarships to students in grades P-12. Those organizations will award scholarships to private and out-of-district public schools based on financial need of the students’ families.
$27 Million for Public School Programs: Under this portion of the Education Scholarship and Program Tax Credit, public school students and educators will benefit from $27 million in new funds for education improvement programs. Individuals and businesses will be able to receive a total of $20 million in tax credits for up to 75 percent of their donations made to public schools and not-for-profits that support public schools’ educational programs, including Pre-Kindergarten and extended-day programs.
Instructional Materials and Supplies Credit
This $10 million component of the Parental Choice in Education Act provides a tax credit of up to $200 per public school educator to support the purchase of instructional materials and supplies for use in teachers’ classrooms. This credit will benefit educators and students throughout the state, and will be administered on a first come, first served basis.