Congressman Bob Turner (R-Queens and Brooklyn) is proposing a bill that he says would help relieve the financial burden of parents who send their children to private schools.
At a press conference held Friday at St. Margaret’s School in Middle Village, Turner introduced the Tax and Education Assistance for Children, or TEACH Act. The bill would provide a $5,000 tax credit to any family who chooses to send their child to a private school.
Turner argued that parents with children who attend religious or nonreligious private schools are subjected to “double taxation” by having to contribute to public schools through income taxes.
“My hope is that this bill will ease the financial burden faced by parents who choose to send their children to private schools,” Turner said.
Turner added that the tax credit “would make private schools a more attractive option for parents looking for an alternative to the public school system.”
“This bill is common-sense legislation that will save taxpayers money in the long run,” he asserted.
Asked about the potential negative effects the bill could have on the amount of state aid given to public schools, Turner said that it would be offset by having fewer students in the public school system to pay for.
Turner was joined by St. Margaret’s Pastor Msgr. Steven Aguggia and Philip Franco, the school’s principal. Both men praised Turner’s bill and the potential effect it would have on schools like theirs.
“I often speak with parents with children in the school and parents who want to send their children to the school, and the financial burden always comes up,” Franco said. “I think this bill presents a wonderful opportunity for faith-based institutions like ours and other private institutions.”
“This bill would be a huge benefit to schools like ours,” Aguggia added.
Parents from St. Margaret’s School were also present at the press conference and praised the bill. Kelly Redmond of Middle Village, whose son attends first grade there, said the bill is “a win-win proposition” for private schools and parents.
“This bill would be a tremendous help to the many parents like me who wish to send their children to a faith-based school,” Redmond said.
Other religious schools have expressed support for the measure. Rabbi Yaakov Lonner of the Yeshiva of Central Queens said that “a tax break such as the congressman proposes is sorely needed.”
When asked about the bill’s chances of passing both houses of Congress, Turner expressed confidence that it would clear the Republican-led House of Representatives by the end of the year. However, he conceded that the bill’s chances in the Democrat-majority Senate could depend on the November elections.
Turner also admitted to expecting some political opposition for the bill from the United Federation of Teachers and other teachers unions, but he expressed hope that a dialogue can be started and an understanding can be reached.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) who intends to run for the seat held by Turner, applauded the congressman’s efforts to make religious education more affordable to Queens residents.
“The bill is a more modest version of one that I’m co-sponsoring in the Assembly right now,” Lancman said. “As a parent with three children who have attended religious schools, I know the financial burden it imposes.”
“Of course,” Lancman added, “it would have helped the parents of students in religious schools if Congressman Turner and his fellow Republicans hadn’t cut security grant funding for religious nonprofits in half this year.”
Representatives for the UFT could not be reached for comment by press time.