Supporters of the education investment tax credit face an uphill battle in ensuring it receives the backing it needs from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Assembly, in order to make its way into this year’s final budget, due at the end of April.
The bill, which was passed in the Senate last Wednesday, has been shepherded along by Sens. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) and Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn), with the strong support of the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
The bill represents a bipartisan effort to provide critical support in the form of scholarships for children of tuition-paying parents and additional resources for public school and charter school children. It offers New Yorkers the opportunity to take the amount of tax they owe to New York State up to a certain amount, and, instead, contribute those dollars to scholarship-granting foundations and public school resource assistance non-profits.
Felder, who has been widely recognized as the driving force behind the Education Investment Tax Credit, remarked, “New York’s children deserve the best education possible, whether it’s alleviating the financial burden for tuition-paying families or desperately needed educational materials for public or charter school kids. Ultimately, this bill will allow us to make a collective effort to better the educational opportunities for all of our children by empowering everyone to put some of their tax dollars directly toward this cause.”
Felder’s bill was not included in last year’s budget, despite promises made by the governor and the Assembly to do so. In fact, Felder organized a very aggressive community phone campaign demanding that they fulfill their commitment, to no avail.
In November 2014, during the statewide elections, the governor reiterated his support for the bill at a meeting with Jewish leaders in Boro Park. “The Education Investment Tax Credit is a matter of justice,” said the governor, and he pledged to get it done.
However, in his State of the State address last week Wednesday, Cuomo linked the EITC to the DREAM Act — a move that many see as an attempt to kill both bills. The DREAM Act, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for college tuition assistance, has faced strong resistance by Senate Republicans, all of whom supported the Education Investment Tax Credit.
Thus, linking the two bills could be a move that would effectively ensure that neither gets passed.
“I am extremely disappointed,” Felder said. “Before the election the governor made a commitment to get the Education Investment Tax Credit done. Now he is making it conditional on the passage of the DREAM Act. A commitment with conditions is not a commitment. Tuition-paying parents have suffered long enough and deserve all the help they can get without any strings attached.”
Adding fuel to the fire, Felder says, some organizations and community activists that have claimed to support the EITC are now praising the governor as a supporter of the EITC. Spokespersons have stated that the bill is “closer to passing than ever before.” This is not surprising, however, as some of the same organizations and community activists supported the governor and the Assembly last year, when they failed to include the EITC in the budget altogether.
Although the bill has passed in the Senate, it must now make its way through the Assembly where it must be passed and then signed by the governor.
“Together with private and public school administrators and principals, we are organizing a parent petition drive to let the governor and Assembly know how important this is to us,” Felder said. “They must pass the Education Investment Tax Credit bill now. B’ezras Hashem, we will succeed.”