For Immediate Release:
Wendy Liberatore, Statewide Communications Coordinator, AQE
(518) 432-5315 ext. 102; cell (518) 491-0454
Parent, Religious, Labor Groups and Education Advocates Fight to Block Gov. Cuomo’s Flawed Tax Break for Wealthy
ALBANY (May, 18, 2015) – Education advocates, religious and labor organizations and parent groups have joined forces to block Gov. Cuomo’s education tax credit proposal that he has deceitfully dubbed Parental Choice in Education Act.
Disguised as a way to provide needy children with a private school education, the act is a tax credit designed to reimburse wealthy donors who want to contribute large sums of money to private schools. Under the act, state taxpayers will reimburse 75 percent of the donor’s contributions. In the first year alone, the act will cost the state $150 million.
The three dozen organizations decry the tax break as one that siphons taxpayer money from public schools and funnels it into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires. As part of the effort to block the act, the groups will launch a social media campaign and will release more information on the tax break in the forthcoming weeks.
The groups have also released a video that underscores how the act will further burden taxpayers and debilitate public schools.
The long list of opponents to the act are: A. Philip Randolph Institute, AFSCME, Advocates for Children of New York, Alliance for Quality Education, Balcony, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Citizen Action of New York, Citizen Budget Commission, CSEA, DC 37-AFSCME, La Fuente, League of Women Voters of New York State, Long Island Jobs with Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road, NAACP-New York State Chapter, New York City Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York State AFL-CIO, New York State Association of School Business Officials, New York State Federation of School Administrators, New York State Parent Teacher Association, New York State School Boards Association, New York State United Teachers, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Public Employees Federation, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Rochester – Finger Lakes Pride @ Work , Rural Schools Association of New York State, School Administrators Association of New York State, Strong Economy for All, The Black Institute, The Council of School Superintendents, United Federation of Teachers, and Working Families Party.
“New York cannot afford another poorly targeted tax break,” said Carol Kellermann, President of the Citizen Budget Commission. “The Education Tax Credit would be a costly subsidy for private education.”
“We are concerned that the proposed education tax credit will allow individuals to divert money from the tax stream and send it to favored schools, scholarships and other programs, including religious programming, with no public oversight,” said Robb Smith, Executive Director of Interfaith Impact of New York State. “This bill is designed to permit wealthy donors to make an end run around the New York constitution, which prohibits taxpayer funding of religious education. In the end, the taxpayers will have to make up for the money that is being diverted. We believe in the wisdom of the separation of church and state. We want to see New York fully fund its public school system, not take even more money away from our schools through this misguided legislation.”
“The Reform Jewish Movement affirms the deep commitment of the Reform Movement to the principle of separation of religion and the state which has safeguarded religious liberty for all in this country,” said Barbara Zaron, co-chair of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV). “This commitment and an equally deep commitment to public education as the cornerstone of the American democratic process drives us to affirm our opposition to any form of governmental aid to elementary and secondary schools under the supervision or control of any religious denomination. Consistent with this traditional opposition of Reform Judaism, we oppose the proposals to allow tax credits for tuition paid and/or scholarships awarded to students of non-public schools.”
“We have yet to see any proof that the education tax credit would address the fiscal issues that face religious schools,” said Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters in New York State. “Public schools students should not have to pay the price. We cannot drain public dollars to benefit privately operated schools.”
“Our public schools are called upon to fulfill our state constitution’s promise of a sound basic education for all children, whatever their circumstances, wherever they come from, whenever they arrive,”said Robert Reidy, Executive Director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. “State government’s first obligation needs to be to honor its promises to public schools, by ending the Gap Elimination Adjustment and rebuilding the Foundation Aid formula – not to launch an expansive new commitment to private schools serving only some students.”
“Providing wealthy campaign contributors tax breaks while public school students are deprived of education resources is outrageous,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “This plan is nothing but another million-dollar giveaway of public money to super wealthy donors who fund political campaigns.”
“The Governor’s new Parental Choice in Education Act is a veiled attempt to give away our tax dollars to his campaign donors,” said Jasmine Gripper, Legislative Coordinator for the Alliance for Quality Education. “Why should New Yorkers pay for wealthy donors contributions to private schools? This is a multi-million dollar expense for the state and will divert more money away from already struggling public schools. School funding policies should not be made on the whim to a handful of wealthy individuals and corporations. Instead of prioritizing his campaign donors, the Governor should be focused on supporting our public schools, which serve all kids.”
“The private school tax credit scheme Governor Cuomo is pushing is really just more Albany business as usual: the seven billionaires behind the ‘Educational Fund’ gave $4.6 million dollars in campaign cash to get themselves a big tax break,” said Michael Kink, Executive Director of Strong Economy for All Coalition. “Their ‘educational fund’ seems to have done more educating of influential politicians — particularly Dean Skelos and the Senate Republicans — than of students.
“New York needs to drop the reverse Robin Hood shenanigans and stop trying to fund private and religious schools at the expense of public schools,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Education is the foundation for future success for both New York’s children and the state’s financial well-being. Transferring public money to private schools undermines both. It also violates the foundational principle that bars the government from endorsing religion.”
“People make a conscious decision to pay for a private school education instead of using public schools, just like they make a decision to use a private golf course over a public one, or a private beach club over a public swimming pool, are we to subsidize every person’s decision to use a private facility over a public one, where would it end,” said Michael Borges, Executive Director of the New York State Association of School Business Officials.
“Despite its new name, the governor’s education tax credit scheme is essentially a voucher program designed to reward the hedge fund billionaires who contribute to his campaign,” said New York State United Teachers President Karen E. Magee. “The fact is, the governor’s misguided plan would only aggravate the challenges that confront our poorest districts by siphoning critical funding away from students and schools that are most in need.”
“The state’s priority should not be giving tax breaks to the wealthy, but rather investing in its public schools to ensure all students have the resources needed to succeed,” said New York State United Teachers Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta. “Given that one-third of our school districts in 2015-2016 will be operating with less aid than six years ago, our focus must be on adequately funding public education — not rewarding wealthy campaign contributors at the expense of children in need.”
“This tax credit is just another scheme to reward billionaires. It gives them the power to send money to their favorite private schools, and takes a big chunk out of their tax bill,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “At the same time, it drains money from public schools. Supporters can use all the smoke and mirrors that they want, but in the end this is scam that will hurt public school students.”
“New York’s first obligation is to use tax dollars to adequately fund public education. Yet, there are great disparities in school district financial resources throughout the state. Lawmakers must remedy that situation before they provide tax incentives that would benefit non-public schools,” said Timothy G. Kremer, Executive director of the New York State School Boards Association.
“For New York State to consider diverting available funds away from public education while it has a law that unconstitutionally withholds funds from school districts is unconscionable,”said David A. Little, Executive Director of the Rural Schools Association of New York State. “If that the state cannot afford its public educational system, it certainly can’t afford a second one.”
“Our first priority must be to fully fund our public schools,” New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said. “We need a financial commitment to provide our public education system with the necessary resources needed to ensure all children get the educational opportunities they deserve. An investment in our public schools is an investment in our future.”