By Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Jane Corwin and Mark Grisanti
Two seemingly unrelated news items last week combined to make a powerful point.
The first was the Catholic Diocese’s announcement that it would close 10 schools. Universally, reaction could only be described as pain and sadness.
The second was the Oscar nominations. Why? Because several of the films contending for the honor were produced with the help of a New York tax credit that has helped our state.
In 2014, why can’t we have a tax credit that will help save children, parents and our communities from suffering through the continual closing of their Catholic and other schools?
A bipartisan group of legislators from Western New York is co-sponsoring exactly such legislation. The Education Investment Tax Credit Act would increase charitable funds to two areas critical for our state’s educational future – and for Western New York especially.
This legislation would encourage an increase in donations to non-profit scholarship funds that help low-income and middle-class families afford parochial and independent schools.
The legislation also would increase donations to public schools, non-profit entities assisting them and teacher-driven projects. The Buffalo Public Schools Foundation is created precisely to accept those kinds of donations. Suburban and rural school districts would also benefit, including, Lewiston-Porter, Clarence, Hamburg and Ken-Ton, which are struggling to work within the 2 percent property tax cap.
It would accomplish this by initially providing up to $250 million in state tax credits – not mere deductions – to encourage donations from individuals and businesses to scholarship funds and public schools. It will add education to the long list of actions that receive state tax credits – including movie making, beer production, solar energy and rehabbing historical buildings.
This bill is not a voucher or a giveaway to the rich, and it won’t take money away from public schools. If it were any of those things, it wouldn’t have such strong bipartisan support from all parts of the state.
You don’t have to be a mathematician to see what will happen to school districts as these and more Catholic schools close. The cost to absorb new students will be enormous – and we can’t ask property tax payers to keep paying even higher taxes.
We should become a proud partner with the children, parents, school teachers and taxpayers of the state by approving this tax credit that would help bring quality education for our young people.
Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, represents the 141st Assembly District. Jane Corwin, R-Clarence, represents the 144th Assembly District. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, represents the 60th Senate District.