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A Valentine’s Tax Break?

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The number of people backing a controversial education tax credit keeps on growing. With thousands of parents and teachers behind him, State Senator Marty Golden arrived in Albany on Valentine’s Day to promote the tax break. Also on hand was Senator Carl Kruger, who is now supporting the proposal. Currently before the state legislature, the bill calls for parents making less than $90,000 a year to receive a $500 tax credit. They can receive up to $1,500 per child or $3,000 per family. The credit would be available to parents of children in kindergarten to 12th grade in public, parochial, and private schools, as well as those who are home-schooled. Golden has said he expects the money to be used for “educational expenses,” such as after school tutoring programs, personal computers and software, and tuition to private and parochial schools. He believes the $500 will “go a long way.” Governor George Pataki agrees. He introduced the $500 education tax credit in his latest state budget and attended the February 14 rally in Albany. Explaining his reason for committing to the tax credit plan, Kruger said he and Golden share the belief “that families in New York State deserve a variety of educational options that will benefit their children without inflicting punitive damage on their bank accounts.” While Golden has said he expects 80 percent of the tax credits to go to parents of public school students, city officials who oppose the proposal insist that will not be the case. Critics have said that the credit provides incentives for parents to enroll their children in private rather than public schools. “We have always supported a parent’s right to send their child to private school, but we are philosophically opposed to rewarding them for doing so,” Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) President Jill Levy has said. Also causing controversy is the overall cost of the tax credit plan – $400 million. Rather than invest such a significant amount of money in tax breaks, the state should put it toward finally complying with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) decision, critics of the proposal asserted. While $400 million falls far short of providing all the money the CFE lawsuit said city schools must receive – an extra $5.6 billion in operating funds over the next four years and $9.2 billion over the next five years for capital projects – it would be a step in the right direction, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Randi Weingarten has said. Upon learning of Pataki’s proposed credit, Weingarten said it was the “centerpiece” of his final state budget “instead of investing in the reforms that work and that the courts have ordered.” The day before the rally in Albany, the tax credit was criticized by Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the state’s largest union representing more than 525,000 teachers and school employees. “This shows contempt for New York’s courts and New York’s kids,” he said of the proposal. “The courts ordered the state to implement a solution, but the governor seems to think he’s above the law. His education tax credit is nothing more than a Trojan horse of back-door vouchers that would drain $400 million from our students’ right to a sound basic education. The governor’s entire education budget sends a very clear message: He just doesn’t care about New York’s public school students.”

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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