The New York State Catholic Conference praised Gov. George Pataki for including in his proposed budget a plan to provide tax credits to parents of non-public-school students in underperforming public-school districts.
Public-school districts are considered to be underperforming when they fail to meet student-achievement standards set by the federal government, according to Dennis Poust, spokesman for the Catholic conference, which represents the state’s bishops in matters of public policy.
In his state budget address earlier this month, Pataki announced that he would include in his executive budget a $500 per child education tax credit for parents of children in underperforming school districts, a proposal that drew a positive response from Richard E. Barnes, the NYSCC’s executive director.
“(T)he Catholic bishops of New York state applaud Gov. Pataki’s bold action, calling for an education tax credit to provide hope to parents in underperforming public school districts,” Barnes said in a statement. “The tax credit proposed … by the governor could be used by parents for a variety of expenses, including tuition at independent and religious schools, tutoring and summer instruction services. This makes good sense. New York must not abandon its children in underperforming school districts.”
Poust added that efforts to enact tuition tax credits in the state Legislature have met with no success for years. However, this is the first time the governor has ever put a tuition tax-credit proposal in his budget, Poust said, noting that legislators now will be forced to negotiate with the governor over the proposal, he said.
“It can’t be ignored anymore,” Poust said.
Poust said the conference also supports efforts to provide tuition tax credits to all non-public-school parents in all districts. He urged Catholics to write their legislators and ask them to support the tax-credit bills S-1939 in the Senate and A-8203 in the Assembly.
The conference spokesman also noted that the New York State Coalition of Independent and Religious Schools — of which the NYSCC is a member — is sponsoring a rally at the state capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 14, to show support for legislation to enact education tax credits. Pataki and the legislations’ sponsors have been invited to speak, and many parishes and schools throughout the state plan on sending busloads of supporters to the rally.
Sister Patricia Carroll, assistant superintendent for government services and administration for the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools, said Jan. 20 that she plans to attend the rally in Albany. The Sister of St. Joseph added that she is in the process of encouraging parents and others to attend as well.