The Gift of a Catholic Education: A Call to Action in Support of the Education Investment Tax Credit Billby Virginia Wallace
The Gift of a Catholic Education
A Call to Action in Support of the Education Investment Tax Credit Bill
It's no secret that graduates of Catholic schools possess the academic ability, work ethic, leadership skills and values to be successful; the same skills sought by employers and necessary to meet the challenges of today's job market.
The dream of every parent is for their child to be happy, healthy and successful. We know that a Catholic school education helps many children achieve that goal. Unfortunately, the number of low and middle income families seeking tuition assistance to achieve the dream of a Catholic school education for their children far exceeds the scholarship money available to help them make that dream a reality.
A bill currently before the New York State legislature could play a pivotal role in dramatically increasing the amount of scholarship dollars available for families seeking a Catholic education. That bill is the NYS Education Investment Tax Credit Bill (EITC).
The proposed bill is designed to increase charitable donations from individuals and businesses by providing a dollar for dollar tax credit for up to 75% of a donor's state tax liability for donations to educational entities, like the BISON Fund, that provide scholarships for students to attend the K-12 school of their choice. This credit replaces the existing tax deduction from a donor's taxable income. The bill helps public schools, teachers in public and non-public schools; non-profit organizations supporting public schools, pre-k programs; and families with children who attend private schools.
If enacted, the 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 thereby substantially increasing the number of low and middle income families able to afford private/religious schools. The bill encourages donations to individual public schools, school districts, and non-profit organizations that operate pre-k programs as well as visual arts, music, tutoring and other educational instruction during or after school
The State Senate has already passed the bill with bi-partisan support, it is constitutionally sound and in accordance with state and federal case law. The bill will increase overall state resources to public education through the state's tax code, without affecting the school aid formula; and it would not replace school aid funding as is the case with funding from state lottery revenue. Eleven states already have similar laws supporting families with children in non-public, including religious schools, most notably in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.
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.
Supporters are encouraged to visit investined.org to register and sign an on-line petition in support of this most important piece of legislation. Another way alumni, parents, grandparents, teachers, eligible students, parishioners as well as all those who believe that all children should have the option to attend the school of their choice can assist, is to join the NYS Catholic Conference "Catholic Action Network" (CAN). There you will find a number of prewritten letters which, once edited to your liking, will be sent on your behalf.
From a political standpoint, the time has never been better for passage of this bill; if those who support Catholic education band together in support of this legislation, we can make a difference in the lives of those seeking a Catholic education and a chance at a successful future for their children. In a letter to alumni, Sr. Carol Cimino, Superintendent of Catholic Schools encapsulated the sentiment beautifully when she wrote, "A gift to Catholic education makes real the gift of a Catholic education."