State Senator Marty Golden is once again proposing legislation to support private schools that would cost the state hundreds of millions of tax revenue dollars in givebacks to rich corporate donors, while violating the principle of separation of church and state by infusing public funds into local religious schools.
The Golden-sponsored Education Tax Credit bill (known formally as the “education investment incentives act”) has passed the Republican-controlled State Senate in each of the past three legislative sessions, but has never made it through the Assembly. This year as the legislative session winds to a close, Governor Cuomo has thrown his support behind the legislation, offering his own version of the bill and recently bringing in prominent religious supporters, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, to help him twist arms in Albany. Opponents point out that the financial benefits of the bill would go primarily to wealthy donors, that it would create a de facto voucher program, and that public schools, their first priority, are already being shortchanged by Albany.
Local religious leaders have made a full court press in support of the bill, eager to stanch the flow of declining parochial school attendance and declining funding by replacing it with public money. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn has taken on the role of a political operative, speaking out quite vigorously but misleadingly in support of the bill, including a recent editorial in the Home Reporter in which he accused teachers unions and politicians who decline to support the bill of seeking to harm children. The editorial, published in the June 5 edition, lauds Governor Cuomo for speaking in support of the bill using the church pulpit as a bully pulpit, and goes on to list a group of Assembly members by name who have declined to support the bill, asking readers to call their offices to ask them to change their position.
Between the Governor and the bishop, the wall between church and state has been demolished and carted off to a landfill, probably somewhere on Staten Island. And really, when is the last time you heard a Catholic cleric accusing some other institution of seeking to harm children? Let’s not even go there…
Both versions of the bill offer a tax credit for donors which is essentially a cash giveback, reducing a donor’s tax liability by a similar amount, up to 75 percent in the governor’s bill. Senator Golden would sweeten the pot for corporate donors; his version of the bill allows write-offs of 90 percent. In addition, the tax credit in both bills will only be available for a short period of time, making it highly unlikely that anyone other than wealthy corporations with professional accounting departments will be able to take advantage of the proposed $150 million the governor has budgeted for the first year of the plan. That total rises to $300 million in Golden’s version.
Meanwhile, a 2006 ruling in the New York State Supreme Court declared that the legislature was unfairly funding public schools, leading to gross inequality across and even within school districts. Under the ruling, poor school districts across the state including in New York City were to receive an additional $7 billion in school funding, but the funding has never been appropriated by the legislature.
Bay Ridge is home to seven public schools including three K-5, one K-8, one 6-8 and two high schools, as well as 10 private schools, seven of which are parochial and three nonsectarian.
If you would prefer that your tax dollars fund public schools rather than prop up failing parochial schools, there is still time to let your local State Assembly member Nicole Malliotakis know. You can reach her Brooklyn office at (718) 987-0863 or her Albany office at (518) 455-5716.
While you’re at it, why not give State Senator Marty Golden a call to ask why he’s seeking to give away your tax money to his rich pals while failing for the past 10 years to bring home the funding for public schools the courts said they deserve? District office: (718) 238-6044, Albany office (518) 455-2730.