Education Funding

Pataki Tax-Credit Idea Gets Bipartisan Support

By David J. Hoff — January 31, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Whether it is a presidential-campaign gambit or a serious policy proposal, New York Gov. George E. Pataki’s attempt to create a $500 education tax credit just might pass a legislature that traditionally has spurned private school choice.

Several legislators from New York City, including Democrats representing its poorest sections, have said they support Mr. Pataki’s plan, which would give a $500 credit for private school tuition and services such as tutoring and after-school programs.

BRIC ARCHIVE

“It greatly benefits many of the parents in my district,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Democrat representing Crown Heights and other mostly minority communities in Brooklyn. Mr. Pataki’s proposal is especially attractive, he added, because public school parents can earn the credit for enrichment activities. “Five hundred dollars for test prep can be the difference in whether or not you can get into a specialized high school.”

Observers point to a number of reasons why opponents of the tax credit are entertaining Mr. Pataki’s proposal.

For one, frustration is mounting because the state hasn’t intervened to improve New York City’s schools. In addition, the state has reached its cap on the number of charter schools allowed, which means parents have fewer options to their regular public schools.

“There’s rising support in the minority community, both for vouchers and charter schools,” said Sol Stern, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a New York City-based think tank that supports school choice. “It’s not considered heresy that you’re abandoning public schools and siding with the far right. All of these accusations have less impact now.”

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in this year’s gubernatorial race, has called the education tax credits “a promising approach.” Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, also a Democrat, has said he would consider the tax credits.

But Democrats who oppose channeling public money to private schools said they are confident that their party will succeed in rejecting the tax credits.

Even with a “handful of individuals” in the legislature supporting the tax-credit plan introduced as part of the governor’s budget, “the majority of people [in the party] will see it for what it is and oppose it,” said Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, a Democrat who represents Greenwich Village and other neighborhoods in lower Manhattan.

Credit, Not Vouchers

In his Jan. 17 budget speech to the legislature, Mr. Pataki, a Republican who is considering a run for his party’s presidential nomination in 2008, proposed that parents be given a $500 tax credit to reimburse them for educational expenses such as private school tuition, after-school programs, and tutoring.

Parents who live in districts with at least one underperforming school would be eligible for the tax credit, said John P. Sweeney, a spokesman for the state budget office. Schools would be designated as underperforming if they fail to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for two or more years. Families with incomes above $90,000 could not receive the credit, he said.

Democrats are usually joined by teachers’ unions—one of the most powerful players in the Democratic coalition—in dismissing such school choice proposals out of hand. Indeed, the United Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers’ affiliate representing 140,000 New York City teachers, immediately announced its opposition to the proposal.

In a Jan. 17 statement, UFT President Randi Weingarten called the governor’s budget “an opportunistic, anti-education budget that panders in the worst way.”

Ms. Weingarten and others criticized Mr. Pataki for proposing the tax credit while failing to come up with the money needed to settle a long-running school finance suit against the state.

Last year, a trial court judge ordered the state to ensure that the city’s K-12 budget increase by $5.6 billion a year—or 44 percent—to comply with an order from the state’s highest court. The state has appealed that order in the 13-year-old case, Campaign for Fiscal Equity (“Judge Orders Billions for Schools in N.Y.C.,” Feb. 23, 2005.)

“The governor has never really addressed making a down payment [on that order] and has not structured a plan to address that,” Ms. Glick said.

But frustration among New York City Democrats over the lack of progress in remedying the CFE case may be part of their motivation for considering the tax credit, Mr. Stern and Ms. Glick agreed.

In January, for example, an African-American mother from Queens filed a motion to intervene in the CFE case and receive tuition to send two of her children to private schools because the city has failed to provide them with an adequate education.

Moreover, parents’ options have been limited because the state has reached its cap of 100 charter schools.

Mr. Pataki has proposed raising that cap to 250 charter schools.

Many observers added that Mr. Pataki proposed the school choice initiative in an effort to appeal to conservative Republicans, who play an important role in selecting the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

With the governor trying to “burnish his credentials” with conservatives, Mr. Stern said, he will probably fight hard for the tax credits. That combined with support among Democratic leaders means the proposal has a “shot” at becoming law, Mr. Stern said.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Schools Can Seek More Time to Spend ESSER Funds on Outside Contracts
Waivers are available for contract spending in key areas like construction, tutoring, and mental health.
4 min read
Image of blueprints for construction projects.
GeorgiMironi/iStock/Getty
Education Funding What America Spends on K-12: The Latest Federal Snapshot
About 93 percent of K-12 spending came from state and local sources in 2019-20—but more-recent year totals will reflect federal relief aid.
2 min read
Education Funding Opinion How You Can Avoid Missing Out on COVID Relief Money
We’re losing the race against the clock to spend ESSER funds, but there are solutions.
Erin Covington
3 min read
Illustration of cash dangling from line and hand trying to grasp it.
F. Sheehan for Education Week/Getty
Education Funding K-12 Infrastructure Is Broken. Here's Biden's Newest Plan to Help Fix It
School districts will, among other things, be able to apply for $500 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants for HVAC improvements.
2 min read
Image of an excavator in front of a school building.
iStock/Getty