How does a education tax credit work? (These things have been around forever.) Simple, actually-- say we're giving a tax credit of $500 and you owe $2,000 in taxes this year. You send your child to an approved private school. Voila-- you owe $1,500. The government is going to give you $500 to help pay for your child's private schooling.
If you're thinking, "Well, that sounds pretty much like a voucher," you are correct. It is pretty much like a voucher. Here's Andy LeFevre, director of ALEC's education task force back in 2008.
"Tax credits have become popular in many states and are looked at in a little more favorable light in states than vouchers," said LeFevre. "And it's something that unions have a much harder time fighting against than a voucher program. I think they realize that the end goal is the same as a voucher; it's just a different way to come about it."
Catholic Schools of New York concur. They like how things worked out with a similar program in Florida, where the program now generates half a billion dollars in revenue for Catholic and private schools--er, I mean, a half a billion in scholarships for the students.
New York's initiative is so exciting it has its very own website at investined.org. (No doubt they meant to get "investinpubliced.org" but it just wasn't handy). The site declares boldly that "every child deserves a quality education" because that's a pretty controversial position to take. There's a nice Cuomo-centric video reminding us that ETC provides scholarships for "low and middle-income students." So many glowing happy pictures that you would think thousands and thousands of poor kids will finally get to attend private school.
Let me predict how many poor students will get to attend private schools because of ETC.
That $500 figure above in my example? That's not hypothetical. That's the proposed credit. Five hundred dollars. Enough money to buy a couple of books or a uniform or two. It is not enough to make private school a possibility for families that could not otherwise afford it. However, if every family already attending a private school gets $500 and kicks it into the private school kitty-- ka-CHING!
Oh wait-- did I mention this:
Individuals and businesses can receive a tax credit for up to 75 percent of their donations made to not-for-profit organizations that award scholarships to private and out-of-district public schools based on financial need of the students’ families.
So tax credits to support rich folks who funnel money to private schools.
Clearly this is a bill that is All About The Kids and not in any way a method of diverting tax dollars to private and religious schools-- it's a way to divert tax dollars to people who divert dollars to private and religious schools, which is a totally different thing. I may not be able to give you twenty dollars to run down and buy me some beer, but I can give twenty dollars to my buddy who can give you twenty dollars to run down and buy me some beer. Totally different thing.
The website investined.org is not just informational. It is an advocacy site, with tools for emailing your legislator to push the bill. I would never tell you to go gum up that process with off-message emails. But if you want to tell a buddy to do it, I'm totally cool with that.