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Supporters rally for education tax credit bill

People hold signs during a rally to urge

People hold signs during a rally to urge Albany to pass a measure to increase investment in public schools and scholarships for low-income and working families in Brentwood on March 14, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

Cheers filled a packed auditorium in Brentwood early Saturday as more than 100 parents and students from across Long Island gathered to support a controversial education tax credit bill.

The Education Investment Tax Credit, a version of which passed the State Senate in January but awaits a vote in the Assembly, would give people incentive to donate to bring scholarships to help fund needy public schools. This could be done without raising local school taxes and send children in low-income and working families to parochial and private schools.

At the event at the private MDQ Academy, an Islamic faith-based institution, state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), a co-sponsor of the bill, Bishop William Murphy from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, and several education advocates commended the legislation's diverse backing. Its supporters hail from various communities and some 140 groups of all socioeconomic backgrounds, faiths, races and ethnicities.

Massiel Alvarez, 45, of Bay Shore, a former board member of Sepa Mujer, a Central Islip-based nonprofit dedicated to helping immigrant Latina women, said she sees, through her two daughters in local public schools, the school systems' needs.

"We need the resources to help our children get in the maximum potential as professionals, as human beings, as a part of society," Alvarez said. "We need someone to invest in activities that help to develop the talents of our children, but that the schools have no budget to cover."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's executive budget, coming up for a vote on April 1, includes the bill that would give individual or corporate donors a credit equal to 75 percent of approved contributions, up to a maximum credit of $1 million a year, according to Bob Bellafiore, a spokesman for the Invest in Ed Coalition, the event's sponsor. The funds would be divided between scholarships for private schools and needs for public schools.

Some critics have likened the measure to private education subsidies. The bill has 76 sponsors in the Assembly, a number that could qualify it to pass, Bellafiore said. A similar bill failed to pass the Assembly the past two years.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Massiel Alvarez as a current board member of Sepa Mujer. Alvarez is a former board member and she did not represent the group in her lobbying efforts.


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