Bay Ridge rally held in support of education tax credit bill
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Francesca Emery, whose son Matias is a first grader at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, said New York State should be doing more to help financially strapped parents who choose to send their kids to religious or private schools. “I’m hoping we’re on the road to getting a tax credit,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Providing financial support to non-public school parents would actually wind up helping the public schools, too, according to Emery, who said that if more parents could afford a religious or private school education, those schools would be able to keep their doors open, thereby preventing the public schools from becoming more overcrowded. “If the Catholic and private schools closed, the Department of Education would not be able to accommodate all of the extra children who would have to go to the public schools,” she told the Eagle.
Emery was one of a group of parents and educators who attended a rally organized by state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) at Holy Angels at 337 74th St. on March 14 to call on the State Legislature to pass a bill that would create an Education Investment Tax Credit in the state.
The bill would make a New York State tax credit available to all parents, public school and non-public school, Golden said. The bill would also allow donations to educational and scholarship funds, such as Futures In Education, a scholarship fund operating in the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, to be offset through a tax credit, according to Golden, who said it would enhance the number and size of those donations, thereby helping more parents.
Among the rally’s attendees were young children who attend Holy Angels Catholic Academy and who were brought to the rally by their parents.
While the debate over funding for universal pre-kindergarten and charter schools is taking up a great deal of attention during the state budget negotiations in Albany, educational tax credits for parents is still an issue being debated, Golden and Malliotakis said.
Both houses of the legislature recently passed their own set of budget proposals, a move that signals the start of intense budget negotiations in Albany, which under stat law, has to adopt a final budget by April 1. “The senate version of the budget has this tax credit in it,” Golden said. The assembly’s budget doesn’t include the tax credit, but Golden said that 110 assembly members, including 68 Democrats, have expressed support for the bill.
Malliotakis said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is “a major roadblock” to the bill.
The bill would cost the state $150 million in the first year of its implementation, $225 million in the second year and $300 in the third year, Golden said.
Golden, who is a product of a Catholic school education and attended Holy Angels Catholic Academy years ago when it was known as Our Lady of Angels School, said it’s important to give all parents financial help so that they can make decisions about the education of their children. Parents deserve “the choice to determine which school to go to,” he said.
“This is very important to parents in Catholic schools,” Holy Angels Principal Rosemarie McGoldrick said.
The bill would help many non-public schools who are struggling to keep their doors open. Malliotakis said. “This I believe will help those schools stay open. This helps public schools, too,” she said.
Golden and Malliotakis urged parents to lobby their state representatives in favor of the bill and to call Silver to express their support for the legislation.
Linda Dougherty, principal of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Academy in Forest Hills, said the schools operated by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn are diverse. “But the concerns of parents are the same, ‘How will we pay for this education?’”
Dougherty called the bill “essential to keeping our schools open.”
Nicholas J. Vendikos, director of development for Futures in Education, said the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn operates 108 schools in Brooklyn and Queens, including 89 elementary and 19 secondary schools. Twenty-two percent of the students in Diocesan elementary schools are non-Catholic, he said. Futures In Education has awarded $8.3 million in scholarships, he said. “The average household income was $27,000,” he said.