Shortchanging New York’s Children

$21,441 — Twenty-one thousand, four and forty-one dollars.

That was how much it cost taxpayers to educate each of the 1.1 million students in New York City public schools in fiscal year 2013, for a total budget of an astronomical 23.9 billion dollars.

Some 36% percent of that budget — or 8.5 billion dollars — came from New York State, to the tune of more than $7,200 per public school student.

In the budget agreement reached in Albany over the weekend, the State was generous in allocating a whopping $1.1 billion in additional spending for public schools.

While these funds are distributed by governmental officials, they are of course funded by taxpayers — a significant percentage of whom send their children to private and parochial schools.

Despite the heroic efforts of State Senators Simcha Felder and Marty Golden, who co-sponsored and worked indefatigably to further a bill that would have would have been a “game changer” to many parents who send their children to private schools,  the budget, in the words of Senator Felder, again gave these parents “crumbs.”

Much to the disappointment of many in our community and other communities with large numbers of parochial school students, as the budget agreement didn’t end up including the crucially important, Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC), that would have provided a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for charitable giving for educational purposes — including scholarship funds.

“Frankly, given all that was in the state budget, tuition-paying families should be enormously disappointed that their needs were unaddressed,” James Cultrara, director of education for the New York Catholic Conference told Hamodia Sunday. “It is patently unfair and leaves them continuing to shoulder a dual burden of tuition and taxes supporting public schools.”

While it wasn’t a voucher program or even an actual tuition credit, EITC would have been a significant step that would have helped bring in a desperately need infusion of many millions of dollars in private and corporate donations to pay for scholarships for needy students in New York.

Carefully tailored to insure it benefits both students attending public education entities as well as private schools, the proposed bill would have helped New Yorkers from all sectors.

Though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, our community owes a deep debt of gratitude to those who did all they possibly could to try to make it happen. In addition to Senators Felder and Golden, who fought tirelessly down to the wire trying to make EITC a reality, the leaders of the State Senate, Republican Conference Leader, Senator Dean G. Skelos and Independent Democrat Conference Leader Senator Jeffrey A. Klein, showed true leadership as well as a genuine understanding of our community in giving this bill their unstinting support.

Leading askanim and communal organizations pushed as hard as they could, and thousands of parents called and wrote letters to try to impress upon the members of the legislature the importance of this bill. They all deserve our deepest thanks.

We are deeply disappointed that the New York State Assembly and the Governor declined to go along with this most important and reasonable proposal.  Parents whose children attend parochial and private schools pay the same taxes as public school parents, and trying to offer them some relief is a matter of basic fairness.

We hope that this setback is only a temporary one, and next year, the heroic efforts spearheaded by Senators Felder and Golden and other legislators will ultimately be successful as they continue to champion the legitimate requests of a significant segment of their constituents.


 

A version of this editorial appeared in Monday’s daily edition.