Every child deserves an outstanding education, and as your representative in the state Assembly, I’m committed to putting our students first. One measure you’ve probably seen in the news recently is the governor’s Parental Choice in Education Act, sometimes referred to as the Education Tax Credit or ETC. The slick PR campaign, with its glossy mailers and ads, is designed to make you think this proposal would help our neediest students. However, the fact is, this campaign is being financed and directed by wealthy Wall Street bankers and hedge fund billionaires, and the proposal would actually benefit the wealthiest New Yorkers – not those in need. And it would divert much-needed state aid away from public schools. For these reasons, I cannot in good conscience support this proposal.
Advocates claim the ETC is about helping low-income families afford private education. They say it would encourage donations to scholarship funds for private and parochial schools, which would benefit students who could not otherwise afford to attend these schools. However, families with incomes up to $300,000 per year would be eligible for half of the available scholarships. Considering the average New York family makes $58,000 per year – much less than the $300,000 threshold – it’s hard to see how this proposal would benefit lower-income students and families at all.
The proposal also acts as a huge giveaway to the wealthy. Individuals and corporations that donate to private scholarships would be eligible to receive a 75 percent tax credit up to $1 million – a boon to those who donate and a $150 million cost to the taxpayer. Further, because tax credits would be given on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s possible that a small handful of wealthy individuals or corporations could quickly drain the entire fund. In the end, the proposal would drain $450 million from our public schools.
This year, I stood with my colleagues in the Assembly and proposed an increase of $1.8 billion in education funding for the 2015-16 school year – that plan was rejected by the governor and reduced. There’s no doubt that private education plays an important role all across New York State. I support private and parochial schools – in fact, I helped craft a budget that increases funding for nonpublic schools by $12.6 million over last year. But, at a time when New York’s highest court has ruled that public education is drastically underfunded, our first priority must be public schools. I support strengthening all our schools – public, private and parochial – but stripping resources from public schools under the guise of helping private schools is not the answer.
Moving forward, I am committed to working with all education stakeholders – parents, teachers, students and community members – to ensure our schools are as strong as they can be and our students are getting the education they deserve. As always, my door is open. Should you have questions about education or any other community issue, please contact me at RamosP@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 631-435-3214.
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