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Religious Schools Call On New York State Lawmakers To Approve Tax Credits

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Religious school advocates are in a battle with New York State over tax credits denied to some private schools.

As CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported, leaders of Muslim, Jewish and Catholic schools are seething.

State aid for public schools went up $1.1 billion in this year's budget. But according Bishop William Murphy, spiritual leader of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, private religious and secular schools were thrown under the bus, McLogan reported.

New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan agrees and is angry that while charter schools and pre-kindergarten are getting funding, tax credits that would have benefited private schools with up to $150 million a year have so far been denied.

"This is not an us against them type of legislation. This is an us together for our greatest treasure, which should be our children," Dolan said.

"What we've tried to do is band together with all these other faith-based schools and basically get what New York State owes us," said Ira Balsam, president of the Board of Trustees of the Schechter School of Long Island.

Private schools across Long Island have joined together, warning that if their schools close, it will overwhelm the public school system.

"In fact, one of every six students in New York State attends a non-public school," Dr. David Hahn, head of Long Island Lutheran prep school, told McLogan.

Half of private school students in the state rely on tuition assistance, McLogan reported.

Without the Education Investment Tax Credits from Albany, there may be no incentive to give. That has school officials worried that some may go under.

"The amount of money that we get from the state budget for education in the non-public schools is approximately 1 percent of what the state spends on education," Dr. Cindy Dolgin of the Schechter School of Long Island told McLogan.

Following recent budget cuts, many public school parents and the teachers union argue that everyone has a right to choose the best education for their child but that taxpayers shouldn't be asked to subsidize private schools.

"Certainly within their rights to do, but they should do it on their own dime and not on the taxpayers' back," parent Thomas Obermaier said.

"Pay it on your own, not have everyone else pay for the right for you to send your kid to a private school," William Hinton added.

The tax credit incentive has a chance to pass. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said it will be a priority for the rest of the legislative session.

The New York State United Teachers Union released a statement saying to siphon away money now to private and religious schools would be the wrong direction for New York.

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