Support Critical for Passage of Education Investment Tax Credit Billby Ginny Wallace
Momentum is building in the NY State Assembly for passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit Bill (A.1826), but time is running out. The 2013 legislative session will end in late June. Therefore, NOW is the time to act. Like our current students, faculty and families who rallied in the First Niagara Center on April 10th, the alumni of WNY Catholic Schools need to rise up and use their collective voice to show support for this legislation which is so vital to the sustainability of our Catholic Schools. There is power in numbers. The simple act of signing an on-line petition will send a powerful message if we all take the time to act.
More than 10,000 roaring elementary and high school students, faculty, parents and fellow supporters from Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran and Islamic schools packed the First Niagara Center on April 10th to display their overwhelming support for passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit Legislation. The atmosphere in the arena was electric; seasoned news media remarked that the level of excitement and appreciation shown to the group of bipartisan speakers including Bishop Richard Malone, Sen. George Maziarz and former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly was "heartier and louder" than would have been shown for the Buffalo Sabres this season.
Through their numbers and their volume the massive cheering crowd accomplished their goal - sending an undeniable message to the NYS Assembly that they want passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit Bill. The bill has already been passed with bi-partisan support by the State Senate. It is constitutionally sound and in accordance with state and federal case law. Eleven states already have similar laws supporting families with children in non-public, including religious, schools most notably Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.
The NY state bill proposes a dollar for dollar credit of up to 75 percent of a donor's state tax liability by donations to non-profit organizations, like the BISON Fund, that provide scholarships for students to attend the K-12 school of their choice. If enacted, this education tax credit would encourage a much higher level of private donations to scholarship organizations which could then provide additional and larger tuition assistance awards.
Passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit bill would substantially increase the number of low and middle income families able to afford private/religious schools. The resulting stabilization of the private/religious school sector would help ease the current overcrowding in public schools.
Still there are skeptics, opponents believe the bill is an oblique effort to subsidize private schools and see its passage as a threat to public education. Actually, the bill requires that 50 percent of the total tax credits are allotted for private donations to public schools - a much higher rate than the current state budget for school aid. The bill's effect will also increase overall state resources to public education through the state's tax code without affecting the school aid formula while allowing additional funding to be raised to preserve programs at the margin, such as arts, music and athletics, which are most vulnerable to annual budget cuts.
The facts are clear; the time to act is NOW. By signing the on-line petition, your simple act will have a huge impact on the future of our Catholic schools.