Although advocates of education tax credits didn’t get what they were hoping for, this year’s New York state budget does include a new tax credit for parents of school-age children, and the New York State Catholic Conference is urging Catholic-school parents to apply the credit toward their educational costs.
Parents are legally able to use the credit, worth as much as to $330 per child, for any purpose. Originally, Gov. George Pataki had proposed a credit to be used for such educational expenses as nonpublic-school tuition. When the state Legislature instead included in the budget an unrestricted child credit, the governor vetoed the revenue portion of the budget, but the Legislature overrode his veto April 26. Officials with the state Catholic conference — the public policy arm of the state’s bishops — said the Legislature opted for a general credit as “a compromise to appease the state’s public school teachers unions.” The unions had fiercely opposed the governor’s proposal for an education tax credit, arguing that it would divert tax revenues away from public schools.
On April 28, Richard E. Barnes, the Catholic conference’s executive director, issued a statement noting that Catholic support for the education tax credit helped lay the groundwork for the general tax credit the Legislature included in the budget.
“This credit would not have been adopted had it not been for the hard work of the Catholic conference and other education tax-credit supporters,” he said. “Catholic citizens across the state should be proud that their advocacy has resulted directly in this needed tax relief, worth an estimated $600 million.”
Barnes added that thousands of Catholic parents rallied in Albany in February and lobbied legislators in March for the tax credit. Hundreds of thousands more signed pro-credit postcards or wrote their legislators on behalf of the credit, he said.
“The Catholic bishops urge parents to indeed use the money to help pay for education expenses, whether their children attend public, religious or independent schools,” he said.
Although she welcomed any assistance the state can give parents, Sister Elizabeth Meegan, OP, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Rochester, said she still supports explicitly linking a tax credit to educational expenses.
“What we really need is some acknowledgement that parents need more of a choice in education for their children,” she said.