Andrew Cuomo (51864)
Credit: Pat Arnow

Last week, educators and educational activists called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ax plans for an Education Investment Tax Credit, which they call a “scheme” to divert money from public education.

The EITC is a plan that would provide tax subsidies to individuals and corporations that donate to private and religious schools. With Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Bishop Richard Malone promoting the plan, it seems impossible that it will be impeded, but activists have cited the state being in arrears to public schools—for example, Buffalo city schools were owed $96.1 million in Foundation Aid—stating that “another tax break to millionaires” is not acceptable.

“The education tax credit is outrageous,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education of New York. “Everyday taxpayers will be subsidizing donations to private schools by millionaires. These are our public tax dollars and they should be going to our public schools, not sheltering millionaires from taxes.”

The tax credit would allow private school donors to be reimbursed by the state for up to 90 percent for a donation of $1 million. Activists believe that the introduction of the tax credit would set up a yearly funding battle between public and private schools, which would further create inequities between the two. Activists claim that the scholarships that private school donations would generate would go mostly to students from upper-middle-class and upper-class families.

Activists believe it’s the wrong time to “aggressively” seek this tax subsidy because the state has not yet complied with the results of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which stated that public schools are underfunded, the state still owing public schools $5.9 billion.

“Even with a substantial school aid increase this year, nearly one-third of the state’s school districts will have less state aid in 2015-2016 than six years ago,” said New York State United Teachers’ Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta. “Investing adequately and equitably in public education, not providing more tax giveaways to the wealthy who prefer private education, should be the state’s top priority.”