2012-03-09 / Top Stories

Turner Proposes Parochial, Private School Tax Credits

By Howard Schwach


Congressman Bob Turner, Saint Margaret School Principal Philip Franco (right), and local parents came together as the congressman introduced the Tax and Education Assistance for Children (TEACH) Act of 2012, at a press conference at the Saint Margaret School in Middle Village, Queens. Also pictured is Monsignor Steven J. Aguggia (far left), the Pastor of Saint Margaret. Congressman Bob Turner, Saint Margaret School Principal Philip Franco (right), and local parents came together as the congressman introduced the Tax and Education Assistance for Children (TEACH) Act of 2012, at a press conference at the Saint Margaret School in Middle Village, Queens. Also pictured is Monsignor Steven J. Aguggia (far left), the Pastor of Saint Margaret. Congressman Bob Turner stood in front of a parochial school last week to introduce a bill that would provide a direct tax credit of up to $5,000 for any parent paying parochial school or private school tuition.

Turner held a press conference at the Saint Margaret School in Middle Village, Queens, last Friday, at which he introduced the Tax and Education Assistance for Children (TEACH) Act of 2012.

The Congressman started off the press conference by explaining how parents who choose to send their children to private schools are subject to what is in essence a form of double taxation.

“That is why I am here today to introduce H.R. 4075, the Tax and Education Assistance for Children (TEACH) Act of 2012,” said Turner.

“The TEACH Act will provide parents who send their children to non-public elementary and secondary schools a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year and effectively eliminate or minimize the effects of this ‘double taxation.’ ”

Legal experts say, however, that such a tax credit might well breach the wall between church and state and be unconstitutional.

“Some states have worked around the problem by giving money to organizations that provide scholarships for parochial school, or by earmarking money for not-for-profits that help families that cannot pay the tuition, but a direct tax credit for parochial school tuition is pretty clearly not within the law of the land,” one expert told The Wave.

On Monday, the Orthodox Union, a conservative Jewish organization, commended Turner and his co-sponsors.

Organization president, Dr. Simcha Katz, said in a prepared statement, “The challenge of tuition affordability is the most serious domestic challenge facing our community.

We are grateful that Congressman Turner is offering a serious initiative in response. He is helping us to provide our children with the education they believe is most appropriate.”

The bill has three co-sponsors, all considered to be among the more conservative members of the House – Peter King from Long Island, Michael Grimm from Staten Island and Steven Palazzo from Mississippi.

The TEACH act also received praise from several parochial school administrators who see the bill as a win-win, by helping non-public schools increase their enrollment through more affordable tuition, while reducing class sizes and costs for public schools.

“This legislation, as proposed by Congressman Turner, is an excellent idea whose time has come. Tax relief for those who choose to send their children to religious schools, and or any private school, is extremely helpful to families in these difficult economic times. Such a law would benefit both private schools and overburdened public schools.

Most importantly, it will significantly increase a parent’s right to educate their child as they choose,” Philip Franco, PhD, Principal, Saint Margaret Catholic School, said.

Rabbi Yaakov Lonner, executive director of Yeshiva of Central Queens said, “Non-public school parents should not be subject to ‘double taxation.’ By paying tuition to private schools, they are, in effect, saving the government millions of dollars. It is a tremendous burden for them to carry. No doubt, a tax break such as the congressman proposes is sorely needed.”

“The Diocese of Brooklyn is grateful for the legislation that Congressman Turner is supporting,” said Stefanie Gutierrez, spokesperson for the diocese. “We hope that our other representatives in Congress will also choose to support the TEACH Act and the many thousands of families that it will undoubtedly assist.”

There are more than 75 schools within the 9th New York District that Turner represents which would qualify as elementary or secondary schools under the bill. Turner serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and House Committee on Homeland Security.

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