May 13, 2015
‘It Ain’t Over’ in Albany
Yes, I know he was a great Yankee, but, he was raised in my hometown of St. Louis, so, I have a double-claim on him. And one of Yogi Berra’s memorable lines was, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over!”
It’s not over for the Education Investment Tax Credit. We almost had it last year, when for some mysterious reason, Albany failed to pass it at the final moment. Then, we thought we would get it done as part of the Budget six-weeks ago, and victory slipped-by again.
But, “It ain’t over!”
A remarkable coalition of leaders—Democrats and Republicans; the Governor, Senate, and Assembly; up-state and down-state; union and management; Jewish, Catholic, and Evangelical; police, fire, and construction unions; and, especially, our parents—have united to get what everybody calls a “no-brainer” done by the end of June.
All this promising initiative does is give our donors a little tax credit for their financial support of our schools. Over half of all the other states, and the District of Columbia, already provide some form of this enlightened Education Investment Tax Credit. It has proved to be a boost to our struggling non-public schools, which are working so well at educating our children.
Because, as Governor Cuomo, and the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties observed, this is about our children. We need to help them get the best education possible. Parents deserve a choice when it comes to getting their kids the best education.
With all this support, and with such compelling logic behind it, you might wonder, “Who could be against this?”
Well, our elected leaders tell me that the Public School Teachers’ Union is opposed to it, and has let our elected leaders in the legislature know it. Why the union is against it, I’m not quite sure. The credit can be used to assist public school teachers as well, and data shows that, in the states with the credit already, both public and private schools show improvement. Should we not be concerned for all our students, no matter what school they attend? I’m sure supportive of our public schools, where a good number of our teachers are Catholic, and where 70% of our Catholic children go. Could our public school teachers’ union not give us a boost, as this EITC would not hurt them a bit.
Our elected representatives in Albany have told me a little secret: the majority of them are behind the EITC, but they are scared by the power of the union and, they are honest in telling me, they are not scared by the parents and kids of our non-public schools, because we do not push them, defend them, demand for them, and nag our Senators and Assembly men and women about them.
I’m afraid they may have a point, and that has to change. The Senate already passed the EITC, and support is strong; a majority of the assembly, controlled by the Democrats, tell us they’re for it, but many seem to be intimidated by the well-oiled lobby of the monopoly, confident that the advocates of our religious and non-government schools will not put pressure on them. Speaker Heastie himself bravely co-sponsored the bill, but worries that his membership, while publicly supporting us, will not come through. These are the same politicians who write me either, one, for help in getting a child in their district into one of our excellent schools, or, two, to criticize us for yet another agonizing decision to close one of our good schools.
So, it’s in our hands. Our friends—Governor Cuomo, so many assembly Democrats, and the Republicans—tell me they can’t get it done unless we back them and hold them as accountable as the opposition does. And, it’s not us bishops who have the clout, they whisper, but our parents and teachers! You’re the ones who vote! They report to you!
Yogi Berra also remarked, “You win one and all those losses are forgotten.”
It’s high-time this promising, enlightened, proven EITC becomes state policy. We can’t let this moment pass.