[This editorial originally appeared in the March 27 issue of the New York Teacher.]
A new proposal making its way through the state Legislature is a thinly veiled voucher program that would use taxpayer money to fund religious and other private schools in New York City and across the state.
The proposal, already approved by the state Senate and included in its budget bill, threatens the future funding of public education and must be kept out of the final state budget.
It is misleadingly called the education investment tax credit. It would be more accurate to call it the plan to divest public education and further enrich wealthy donors to private schools.
The program would grant individuals tax credits of up to $1 million for donations to scholarship funds for religious or other private schools.
In other words, money that would go into state coffers to fund public education, affordable housing or infrastructure improvements would instead go into the bank accounts of wealthy people who donate to private scholarship funds.
And the scholarships themselves would benefit children of well-off families, with a generous household income limit of $550,000.
The tax credits would also be available for donors to public schools. But don’t let that fool you. Public schools were added to make the tax credit more widely palatable. This bill would allow wealthy donors to pick which public schools they want to support and which not.
In a cynical attempt by the bill’s writers to win over public school educators and their supporters, teachers would also get a tax credit of at least $100 for buying supplies.
Although the state Senate has passed the bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. Marty Golden, the Assembly leadership, to its credit, is showing less enthusiasm.
But the tax credit proposal has momentum. It is particularly alarming that 17 labor unions, most of them representing uniformed public employees, back the bill on the grounds that it would benefit their members, presumably because many of them send their children to parochial schools.
Have middle-class and working New Yorkers who choose to send their children to private school forgotten the importance of a well-funded public education system?
This proposed massive tax giveaway would hurt working people by increasing the already staggering wealth inequality in New York. By draining money that we need for our public schools, state universities, highways and other vital services, it would threaten the economic future of our state.