Governor Cuomo Tries Once Again to Institute Tax Credits to Private School Parents

The Stony Brook School, located on the north shore of Long Island, New York.

By Jenny Jeng and Nicholas Kalantzopoulos

The Governor of New York State, Andrew M. Cuomo, is attempting, for the second time in two years, to add tax breaks to the state budget in order to aid parents of private school students.

The Parental Choice in Education Act, which is the name of the proposal, would also offer tax credits to people who make donations to private and religious schools. Teachers at these schools would also benefit, by gaining a tax break when buying school supplies. Cuomo had tried to push the bill in 2015, but it did not go through.

“I think it’s only positive for us, the opportunity to gain students through this program, is something that would be very attractive to us,” Joshua Crane, the Head of the Stony Brook School, a private independent Christian boarding school on the North Shore of Long Island, said. Crane said that financial support from the government is essential. “[Parents can] have choice and the opportunity to choose where they want to send their child,” Crane said. Stony Brook School is a preparatory that teaches boys and girls in grades seven to 12.

Christine Loo, the college counselor said by receiving aid from the government, it would give the school the ability to give more away.

“Potentially, it would give us the option to admit a student that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise, and in that case maybe the school would step up with trying to make up some of the difference in what the student wasn’t able to afford.” She also said the program would open up their admission to a wider range than before.

But the goals of private schools do not differ much from most privates.

“I think a lot of goals we have in English departments are similar to a public school. I would say in term of curriculum goals, I don’t see a big difference,” the English Department Chair of the Stony Brook School, Erik Johnson, said.

Opponents of the proposal state that government money being given to schools would put private school administrators in a tough spot.

“The state constitution prohibits the state from using public money to provide direct or indirect aid to schools that provide religious instruction,”Robert Perry, the legislative director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said.

“The problem is that once we become beholden to the state,” Mark Lukens, the leader of Interfaith Alliance in Long Island, said. “We become, in a sense, on the state’s payroll.” Lukens believes that public schools should be independent.