June 11, 2015
For the Sake of the Students, and the Rest of Us, Too
But, Cardinal Dolan, this is a ‘no-brainer!’ Who could be against this?”
That’s the question one of our many devoted teachers asked me about the Education Tax Credit, now close to passage—pray!—in Albany.
Her question is so logical and sincere. This promising initiative helps all our children, in public, religious, charter, and private schools. What it does is offer folks—not just “fat cats” as a few have claimed—but all people, a chance to get a tax break for a donation for a scholarship to one of the many non-governmental schools for a student from a lower income family, or for help to a public school teacher for out of pocket expenses.
This would be good for all students, families, and teachers. I don’t mind admitting that it would be of particular benefit to our schools, allowing our present students to stay, new ones to come, and fewer of them to close.
It’s good for our public schools, too. The teachers there would get a break. Plus, evidence shows that strong private schools actually boost public schools, as competition in education—like in everything else—is healthy for all schools. We Catholics want and support our public schools, since they’re essential for the community, 75% of our children go there, and 35% of public school teachers are Catholic.
The benefits of this Education Tax Credit are so evident that an impressive and diverse array of people support it: Democrats (Speaker Heastie co-authored the bill and over half of the Assembly have registered their backing) and Republicans (the Senate, under their control, has already passed it); liberals and conservatives; Jews, Orthodox, Protestants, Catholics . . . and atheists!; owners and labor; Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and many other ethnic minorities; the majority of newspapers in the state; and Governor Cuomo.
Proponents point out that it is already law in over half the states and D.C., has passed Constitutional muster, and works.
How grateful I am for such positive, upbeat support! Our people, tired of watching beloved schools close, sensing the injustice of parents unable to have their tax dollars go to the school of their choice, and bristling at the sight of poor kids with no real choice in education, like rich children get, have rallied enthusiastically.
Even our few opponents are taking a second look. Last week I met, at the invitation of Governor Cuomo, with leaders of the Assembly and Senate. Some of our elected officials had concerns, and I appreciated the way they expressed them and listened to our replies.
Knowing that, for some reason, the public school teachers’ unions were against this measure, I invited the leaders to meet with me to talk about it. One is coming in—thanks!—the other has not responded.
I was especially chagrined to see that the NAACP had opposed the initiative, since children of color most enjoy and flock to our inner-city Catholic schools, and am happy that the leaders have accepted my invitation to come talk. We need to work together for all our kids, in all our schools.
This could be historic: so many diverse groups joining to help our kids. It would show that Albany works on behalf of our schools that work!