Parents, too, have legitimate concerns — about over‐testing, a narrowing curriculum and the loss of local control over their children’s education. Frustrated at their diminished influence in the era of Common Core, parents are exercising one of the few tools they have left.
Of course, if the union really believed its own opt‐out rhetoric, they’d realize that parents should be able to opt out of their assigned district schools as well. Cuomo’s proposed Parental Choice in Education Act would do just that.
Cuomo’s proposal would increase funding for public schools while also granting tax credits worth 75 percent of contributions to nonprofit scholarship organizations. These donations would help primarily low‐ and middle‐income families enroll their children in private schools or in out‐of‐district public schools.
The proposal would also grant tax credits worth up to $500 directly to families earning up to $60,000 a year to cover tuition and fees at their school of choice.
For low‐income students, school choice can be a pathway out of poverty. Unfortunately, although NYSUT has adopted the rhetoric of the school‐choice movement, the union still vehemently opposes parents’ choice in where to send their kids to school.
Perhaps finding it impolitic to fight against low‐income, minority children, NYSUT is engaging in magician‐like misdirection. Magee and her allies are trying to recast the scholarship program as a “giveaway to the rich.”
One particularly juvenile and misleading NYSUT ad features a self‐proclaimed “zillionaire” named “Mr. Moneybags” bragging that the law is designed to benefit the wealthy and their “exclusive schools.”
Rarely has such populist rhetoric been employed to oppose the interests of the poor — which is exactly what the union’s doing.
NYSUT’s chutzpah is all the more galling because donors do not financially benefit. That’s because although the 75 percent tax credits would reduce a donor’s tax burden more than a tax deduction, a donor concerned only with her bottom line would be better off not donating at all.
A $1,000 contribution would reduce a donor’s state tax liability by $750, but she would have given away a total of $1,250 in contributions and taxes rather than merely paying $1,000 in state taxes.
Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that even NYSUT finds it necessary to appeal to the choices of parents. The school‐choice movement has won the battle of ideas in this regard.
In a recent poll by Harvard University and Education Next, 60 percent of respondents expressed support for education tax credits while barely a quarter were opposed.
By adopting the language of parental choice, NYSUT has had some success pushing back against the state test.
In doing so, ironically, the union has shown just how effective parents might be in chipping away at the laws that keep their kids trapped in failing schools — and the union power that depends on them.