Cuomo Promotes Tax Credits for Families of Students at Private Schools
In a campaign-style tour meant to put pressure on lawmakers, Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo visited churches and a yeshiva on Sunday to promote a bill to give tax credits to families of students at private schools, including religious ones.
Mr. Cuomo’s visits showed that he intended to make the bill one of his top priorities in the final weeks in the legislative session, which concludes in mid-June. His plan would also give tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate to nonprofits that award scholarships to students at those schools.
But he will have to overcome opposition from some fellow Democrats, who blocked a similar proposal in this year’s state budget. In particular, his proposal faces a roadblock in the State Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, many of whom are closely allied with the state’s teachers’ unions.
On Sunday, Mr. Cuomo argued for his proposal by pointing to the presence of “failing public schools,” and saying he wanted to give parents another option.
“There are some areas, frankly, where the public schools are not places where you would want to send your children,” he said at the Shrine Church of St. Jude in Canarsie, Brooklyn. He added that “sending your child to one of these failing public schools is in many ways condemning your child to get a second-class education.”
“We want you to have the ability to choose where to send your child,” Mr. Cuomo told churchgoers, asking them to contact their legislators.
Mr. Cuomo said his father, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, chose to send him to parochial school, believing that “I needed the nuns to keep me on the straight and narrow.”
On the other hand, Mr. Cuomo said he sent his three daughters to public school, citing the quality of the public schools in Westchester County. (He did not mention that after attending public school, two of his daughters went on to graduate from Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts.)
“There’s no right or wrong,” he said. “But it should be your choice.”
Mr. Cuomo announced his proposal last week, and appeared with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan to promote it. In total, it would provide for $150 million in annual tax credits.
Under the proposal, families with annual incomes up to $60,000 would qualify for a credit of up to $500 per student who attends private school.
Donors to nonprofit groups that award scholarships to private school students would get a tax credit for up to 75 percent of their donations. Tax credits would also be available for donations to public schools and for public-school teachers who buy classroom supplies.
Teachers’ unions reiterated their opposition to the proposal. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers’ union, said the governor was pushing the legislation at the behest of wealthy campaign donors eager for tax credits.
“I’ve now come to the conclusion that the governor will do or say anything for his hedge fund buddies,” he said.
Similarly, Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, the statewide teachers’ union, said the proposal would “siphon off taxpayer money for tax giveaways to the rich.”
“We respect parents’ decisions to send their children to private or religious schools, but they shouldn’t ask taxpayers to subsidize those personal choices,” Mr. Korn said. “What’s next, tax credits for parents who want to golf at country clubs instead of municipal courses?”
Mr. Cuomo included an earlier version of his tax credit proposal, which did not include the credit for families, in his budget proposal this year. He proposed the credit in tandem with another contentious education proposal, the Dream Act, which would provide state tuition assistance to undocumented college students.
The Dream Act has been opposed by the Republican-controlled State Senate, and in the end, neither proposal made it into the final budget.
On Sunday, Mr. Cuomo pushed for the education tax credit without also making a case for the Dream Act. Asked about the omission, he said the Dream Act was still one of his priorities.
But the legislative prospects of both proposals are questionable. The Senate, which passed a version of the tax credit this year, has shown no sign of budging on the Dream Act. And the Assembly has other priorities for the final weeks, including strengthening rent regulations and extending mayoral control of New York City schools.
“There has not been sufficient support in the Assembly for the tax credit,” said Michael Whyland, a spokesman for the Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. Mr. Whyland added that the Assembly would not allow the extension of mayoral control to be made contingent on the passage of any other legislation, such as the tax credit.
Assembly Democrats are likely to consider passing part of the governor’s proposal that would be limited to giving tax credits to families of students at private schools, as well as teachers for supplies, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who insisted on anonymity because of the confidential nature of legislative discussions.
Supporters sounded optimistic on Sunday.
“We’ve been dreaming about this education tax credit our entire lives, and today the governor is making it a reality,” Councilman David G. Greenfield, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said at a rally held at Yeshivat Shaare Torah in Midwood, Brooklyn.
At the Shrine Church of St. Jude, Msgr. John Delendick had a similar outlook. “I think this will be the last year we’ll have to fight on this,” he said. “We’ll have to find something else to fight on next year.” As Mr. Cuomo headed to his next event, Monsignor Delendick joked that there was only one fault with his visit: “The governor left before the collection.”Cuomo Promotes Tax Credits for Families of Students at Private Schools - NYTimes.com: