Tax credit will encourage investment in education

The recent News editorial weighing in on the Education Investment Tax Credit rightly pointed out that the proposal would encourage private donations to public education and nonprofit scholarship organizations. As far as incentives go, this proposal has the potential to significantly increase private philanthropy for education in Buffalo and Western New York, benefitting the region’s most at-risk students.

In the BISON Scholarship Fund’s 18 years of existence, we have awarded more than 20,000 privately funded scholarships with an economic value of $15 million, impacting 13,500 economically disadvantaged families in our community, allowing them to attend schools of choice. In our current school year, we have nearly 1,800 children attending 78 different private schools throughout Western New York.

Scholarships vary based on family income, with the average award being $965 and a maximum award of $1,400. Like other scholarship organizations, participating families must meet income eligibility requirements. This ensures that the program meets its explicit mission of serving families who can’t afford or are struggling to afford the tuition for the schools that best meet their children’s educational needs. The average income for families receiving scholarships is just $32,000.

Families participating in the program must partner with us by contributing a minimum of $500 toward tuition, a significant sacrifice for low-income families. However, they understand that a quality education for their children is the best opportunity for overcoming the cycle of poverty.

The BISON Scholarship Fund’s average scholarship, less than $1,000 per student annually, is paying major dividends: 95 percent of students who graduated as BISON scholars in eighth grade also graduated from high school.

In spite of our best efforts to meet demand through local fundraising, nearly 1,000 economically eligible children are on the waiting list today. It is our hope that more low-income families would have the opportunity to attend schools of choice and the proposed state law would allow them to do just that.

Paul D. Bauer

President, BISON Scholarship Fund