Voucher Lite
January 19th, 2006

Governor George Pataki’s proposal to give parents of kids in “underperforming” school districts a tax credit of $500 per child to use for tutoring or private schools may have, as the New York Times put it, only “a micro chance of passing” the state legislature. But that has not prevented a flurry of debate on the issue, which some see as yet another Pataki gambit aimed at voters in Republican presidential primaries. “The governor’s backdoor voucher plan is just a gimmick to make himself look good to conservatives in other states,” Alan Lubin of the New York State United Teachers told WINS.

It did look good to the New York Sun. “Currently, parents who send their children to private schools must not only pay tuition but must also write a tax check that helps subsidize the very public schools that are failing to serve their children,” it wrote in an editorial. “Tuition credits help right the scales by reducing those tax bills.”

State attorney general — and gubernatorial candidate — Eliot Spitzer questioned whether the proposal might run up against the constitution. “Whenever there is state funding — tax dollars — used for nonpublic schools in particular, there are First Amendment issues that are raised, not only federal constitutional issues, but state constitutional issues,” he said. But another aspirant for governor, John Faso, disagreed: “It’s constitutional because the credit doesn’t go to the school … I think that tax credits have been upheld and are constitutional in other states.”

And what about the people who might benefit? “This makes good sense,” said Richard Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference. “This refundable tax credit would literally put cash in the pocket of poor, near-poor, and middle class Jewish families, and that is a proposal we should all get behind,” wrote one Orthodox Jewish mother in OrthoMom. But while DovBear, another Orthodox blogger, thinks “the idea sounds nice,” the writer says, “Handing out cash won’t help Jewish families overcome monstrous tuition costs. The instant more money becomes available our fine Jewish schools will raise their tuition, or they will factor this new money into their scholarship packages. “

By on January 19, 2006, 1:36 pm
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