Rally highlights need for education tax credit billby PATRICK J. BUECHI
Bishop Richard J. Malone joined Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 12 to promote the Parental Choice in Education Act. Educators and students alike gathered together at Eggertsville Youth and Community Center to hear of the common goal of religion and government.
"This will help us bring more and more Western New York young people through a system that would provide for us a strong, capable, competent workforce to continue building on the tradition that we already have and the assistance and guidance that Gov. Cuomo has been giving to us," Bishop Malone said.
The bill has three main points. It sets up a tax-deductible scholarship fund for religious organizations to receive donations to provide scholarships to low- and middle-income students. Secondly, parents who pay for tuition at religious or parochial schools will get a tax deduction, making tuition more affordable. Third, it allows a $200 tax credit to every teacher in public and private schools for out of pocket expenses used for school supplies.
"Education is the civil right issue of today," Cuomo said. "You tell me what kind of education you had, and I can tell you what kind of future you will have. The promise of this country was opportunity for all. You come here and we will work with you to do the best you can with your God-given talent. That's what America is all about. That's what New York is all about."
Cuomo said parents should have the power to make a choice of where their children are educated. Affordable education allows for a greater choice. The Parental Choice in Education Act is expected to not only put money into the pockets of parents through the tax credit, but strengthen schools with the increased student population brought about by parents now affording to send their children to religious and private schools.
"If the school is closed, then you don't have the option of sending your child to that school. In many of the schools, the tuition is too high to pay," Cuomo said. "Lower-income families and middle class families in this economy, as hard as it is, they can't afford to pay all the bills and then pay tuition for a religious school or a parochial school. So you really have no choice, unless you have the options."
Cardinal Dolan said he hears from people across the state who want the education of young people to be the number one priority, and Albany to work together to get something done.
"If we follow the leadership of Gov. Cuomo we're going to be able to accomplish both those goals," he said.
The bill does not only benefit Catholic schools, but would provide tax credits for all religious and private schools.
Bishop Malone, who has spent much of his ministry in education, said this bill would boost Catholic education in the Diocese of Buffalo.
"When we can have more people find it affordable to have their children in our schools, that's good for those children and families who couldn't afford to without this tax credit," he said. "Also, it strengthens those schools. We don't want to close any more schools. So, as we have more students populating our Catholic schools because there still are empty seats in those schools, it strengthens their future as well. That's a very important consideration."
The state legislative session close June 17. It is now in the hands of the people to let their representatives know how they feel about the bill.
"There is nothing better we can do for our beloved state, our country, and yes, our Church than to see that you get the best education possible," Cardinal Dolan said.