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Cuomo, Wall Streeters seek charter cap boost, ed tax credit

New York Teacher

Please WATCH & SHARE our new video RIGHT NOW! Under the Governor’s latest backdoor voucher tax credit scheme, hundreds of millions of dollars that should go to public schools and services would be siphoned off…and that money would go to fund a shady private school tax credit that would benefit the privileged elite!

Posted by NYSUT Action Center on Monday, May 18, 2015

New York State United Teachers posted a video on its website illustrating the governor’s tax credit scheme

Public schools are once again under threat from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Wall Street financiers, who are pushing state lawmakers to raise the number of charter schools in New York City and pass an education tax credit that will dramatically lower the taxes of big donors to private schools.

Groups funded by hedge-fund operatives have plowed nearly $2 million this spring into advertising on TV and social media in a full-court press on Assembly Democrats, who oppose both measures.

The UFT is part of a coalition with its state affiliate, NYSUT, and scores of education and parent groups that is mobilizing to defeat the tax credit bill and fight an expansion of charter schools. The UFT is urging educators and parents to join its campaign to keep public education public at Keep Public Ed Public.

‘A scheme to reward billionaires’

“This tax credit is just another scheme to reward billionaires,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “It gives them the power to send money to their favorite private schools and takes a big chunk out of their tax bill. At the same time, it drains money from public schools. And we shouldn’t even be talking about allowing more charter schools until the ones that now exist start serving the same share of high-needs kids as our traditional public schools.”

Cuomo had to pull his charter and tax credit proposals out of the state budget that was passed in April in the face of the opposition of the UFT and school communities across the state. But he announced a tax credit bill on May 12 and began touring the state to stump for it. The governor has made clear that it is one of his top education priorities. A TV advertising campaign for the tax credit, paid for by a “Coalition for Opportunity in Education,” features the governor.

Under the governor’s bill, a total of $70 million in annual tax credits is reserved for donations to scholarship funds for students attending private schools. Students from families earning up to $250,000 a year can qualify for the scholarships. Cuomo has proposed $20 million in credits for donors to nonprofit groups that support public education programs, including pre-K and after-school programs. A public school would need to have a foundation in order to receive contributions.

Tax credits save donors much more money than deductions. Under the governor’s bill, a person who donates $1.33 million to a scholarship fund for private schools would receive a tax credit of $1 million — money that otherwise would have flowed to state coffers to pay for public schools and other public services.

Co-locations could surge

Meanwhile, anti-union charter advocacy groups and the New York City Charter Center, both heavily funded by Wall Street, have joined forces to push the Legislature to raise or eliminate the current cap on the number of charter schools statewide. If they are successful, it could result in a surge of forced co-locations in New York City, which is required under a 2014 state law to find space for new or expanding charters in public school buildings or pay their rent.

There are still 157 school charters available statewide under the current cap of 460, but in New York City just 25 are left. Charter boosters want to raise the state cap on charter schools while removing all geographic limits, which could mean about 250 new charter schools in New York City alone.

The two measures may become part of a flurry of horse-trading that is expected to occur as June 17, the final day of the legislative session, approaches. Charter advocates, for instance, hope to tie a 100-school increase in the charter cap to a bill to extend mayoral control in city schools for three more years.