Education Tax Credit Creates Opportunity for Empowering Families and Increasing Access to Quality Options
For Immediate Release: February 6, 2006
Contact: (518) 383-2598
Brian Backstrom, Vice President
B. Jason Brooks, Senior Research Associate
Andrea Rogers, Research Associate
An education tax credit could dramatically improve New York’s educational landscape by increasing high-quality options available to low- and middle-income families in the state, according to a new report issued today by the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability.
Governor George E. Pataki included plans for an education tax credit in his state budget proposal, and four bills offering education tax credits are currently introduced in the New York state legislature.
“Not since New York authorized the creation of public charter schools more than seven years ago has there been such a significant discussion about expanding school choice in New York,” said Brian Backstrom, Vice President of the Albany-based public policy think tank that issued the report.
“Creating an education tax credit program would allow New York to join the half-dozen other states providing families with this type of financial assistance on the cutting edge of education reform,” Backstrom noted.
The report compares Governor Pataki’s education tax credit proposal to the credits available to families in six states – Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania – and to the provisions in a handful of proposals already introduced in the New York state legislature. Among the design features of strong education tax credit policies, according to the report, are the following:
• Establish the value of the available credit high enough to allow families, particularly low- and middle-income families, to access a variety of high-quality educational services, including private schools, comprehensive tutoring, and computers and software. Governor Pataki’s proposal calls for a $500 credit; Minnesota offers a $1,000 credit for low-income families; and bills introduced in the New York state legislature offer credits as high as $3,000 and $3,500.
• Allow anyone, not just parents, to claim a credit for educational expenditures made on behalf of a child. Allowing relatives and friends to contribute to the cost of any student’s education would dramatically increase the amount of educational expenditures that could be made on behalf of any student, significantly expanding the choices of schools and services that would come within financial reach.
• Broadly define educational expenses eligible to be claimed against the credit. While Governor Pataki’s proposed education tax credit includes tuition, tutoring, and supplemental curricular materials as expenses eligible to be charged against the credit, other state laws and proposals introduced by New York state legislators allow families to claim expenses such as computer software and hardware, equipment for school sports, band uniforms, science lab fees, Advanced Placement course fees, and transportation costs as eligible expenses. Expanding the types of expenses that can be claimed against a tax credit would dramatically increase the array of educational services that would be accessible to New York’s families.
• Allow business to get educational tax credits for donating to organizations that provide educational scholarships to children. Some states, including Pennsylvania and Florida, have encouraged private-sector corporate support of education by offering tax credits when these businesses fund student scholarship programs. At least one proposal introduced in the New York State Legislature also includes such a provision. The potential windfall for parents, student, and public schools from such a provision is enormous, notes the report.
Governor Pataki’s proposal has gained the support of key state policy leaders and lawmakers, including New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, and members of the state Assembly and state Senate from both sides of the political aisle.
The report also notes that four different versions of education tax credits have been introduced in the state legislature, with three of the four bills receiving bi-partisan and bi-cameral support, including one bill that has garnered sponsorship from 25 Assembly Members and 19 Senators.
Since the Governor’s announcement last month of his education tax credit plan, a diverse group of public supporters – including some of the state’s most recognized leaders in the minority community, school choice advocates, the business community, independent school operators, and the state’s Catholic and Jewish communities – have banded together in support of the proposal. A February 14th rally at the state capitol has been designed to show grassroots demand for this innovative education reform policy.
The Foundation’s full report – plus details about Governor Pataki’s proposal and those of state legislators, positions various groups and officials have stated in favor of and in opposition to these proposals, and comparisons to education tax policies in other states – can be found on the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability’s website at www.nyfera.org.
The Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability (FERA) is an independent, nonprofit, research organization dedicated to improving education in New York State by promoting accountability, stimulating innovation, and supporting school-choice efforts across the state