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New York Gov. Cuomo Seeks Support for 'Parental Choice in Education Act'

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is promoting a $150-million education tax-credit plan that aims to support low-income families sending their children to private and parochial schools.

Cuomo introduced the Parental Choice in Education Act May 12 alongside religious and political leaders, parents, and students, in what appears to be an attempt to secure a broad base of support for the plan.

According to a press release, the annual tax-credit plan seeks to support students attending out-of-district public, parochial, or private schools by providing:

  • Up to $500 in tax credits for low-income families who send their children to nonpublic and out-of-district schools;
  • $50 million in tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate funds to nonprofits offering scholarships to low-income students attending nonpublic schools;
  • $20 million in incentives to public schools offering enhanced educational programming, such as after-school programs; and,
  • Tax credits of up to $200 for public school teachers who purchase classroom supplies.

Cuomo, who urged state lawmakers to pass the law this year, said: "By rewarding donations that support public schools, providing tax credits for teachers when they purchase classroom supplies out of pocket, and easing the financial burden on families who send their children to independent, parochial, or out-of-district public schools, we can make a fundamental difference in the lives of students, families and educators across the state."

About 400,000 students, about 15 percent of all students in New York, attend nonpublic schools, according to the release. The state has 178 "failing public schools" and, the release noted, many of those schools have been flunking for at least a decade. The tax-credit program is pitched at easing the financial burden for parents living in communities with failing schools since, for example, parochial school tuition can cost up to $8,500 a year.

While the New York Times reports that Cuomo spent last weekend visiting churches and a yeshiva to tout his proposal, it may be more difficult for the governor to garner that same level of support from lawmakers and teachers. According to the Times, some Democratic lawmakers stalled a similar education-credit plan included in the state budget earlier this year, and teachers'-union leaders in New York were quick to criticize the Parental Choice in Education Act.

Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, told the newspaper that the plan would "siphon off taxpayer money for tax giveaways to the rich."

"We respect parents' decisions to send their children to private or religious schools, but they shouldn't ask taxpayers to subsidize those personal choices," Korn said.

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