As the legislative session comes to a close in the middle of June, legislators and advocates alike are working to ensure that their particular issue gets a vote in both the State Senate and Assembly. Though the education tax credit came up in the budget negotiations and was ultimately removed from consideration along the NY DREAM Act, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been promoting the education tax credit as a standalone proposal.
In keeping with our longstanding advocacy on this issue, RJV co-chairs Barbara Zaron and Joel Elliot sent a letter to every member of the New York Legislature on Tuesday morning urging them to oppose the proposal. Their letter highlights the importance of public education, and how the fundamental values of church-state separation and religious freedom are compromised by education tax credits:
Any program that permits private, religious schools students to receive public funds through a scholarship program – essentially, a voucher program – is poor public policy and invites legal challenges as well as U.S. and New York State constitutional challenges on church-state separation grounds. A central principle of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is that members of particular faiths, and not the government, should fund religious institutions. We are also concerned that religious schools whose students receive these funds could lose their autonomy because with government money comes government rules and regulations. Such control would not be beneficial for either religious organizations or the government.
You can read the letter in full here.