March 25, 2014

NYSUT and powerful coalition renounce back-door voucher bill

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT Communications

NYSUT and its partners sent a strong message today that New York cannot afford the proposed Education Investment Tax Credit, a back-door voucher proposal that would divert much-needed funds from vital public services and create a special class of education investors with significant influence in shaping the direction of policy and funding.

“Our public schools and colleges have faced devastating budget cuts that have slashed programs and services for our students,” said NYSUT Vice President Andrew Pallotta. “This back-door voucher scheme would siphon hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools - which serve the vast majority of our state’s children - in favor of big tax giveaways for the wealthy.

The news conference was organized by the League of Women Voters and was led by Legislative Director Barbara Bartoletti, who said, “New York simply cannot afford to drain millions of dollars from the state’s general revenue fund to benefit privately operated schools."

“At a time when New York’s public schools are drastically underfunded, taxpayer dollars cannot be diverted to donors of non-public private and charter schools at the expense of public school students,” Pallotta said.

The voucher idea has been kicking around the Legislature for years, and this year it again reared its ugly head in the state Senate one-house budget resolution. It was not in the governor’s executive budget proposal or the Assembly one-house bill. It would provide tax credits to individuals, corporations and partnerships that donate money to public schools, to privately operated charter schools and, through “education scholarships,” to students who attend schools that provide religious education.

Also present were the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Alliance for Quality Education, the state School Boards Association, the Council of School Superintendents and the Fiscal Policy Institute. The groups are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Sheldon Silver to reject the tax credit in budget negotiations with the Senate leadership.

Fred Floss of FPI said the proposal “is unprecedented in that it effectively allows wealthy individuals and corporations to target taxpayer dollars as they choose.”

He pointed out that, in addition to getting a 90 percent tax credit, up to a total of $1 million, donors would also get money back on their federal income taxes.

“That is, they will make a ‘profit’ on any contributions made under the provision,” Floss said.