As the diocese goes through another round of Catholic school closings, Bishop Richard J. Malone maintains it could have been prevented if New York state leaders pass legislation to provide tax credits for school expenses and donations.
While announcing the closings in January, the bishop called for state leaders to pass the Education Investment Tax Credit Bill, which would provide tax credits to people or companies making donations to public schools and private scholarships. In addition, it credits people making donations to school foundations, prekindergarten programs, non-profit organizations supporting programs in public schools and scholarships for private schools.
Such a bill would benefit an organization like, the BISON Fund. Bishop Malone noted the diocese is talking with the BISON Fund to increase scholarships and tuition assistance to needy students, especially for those in Buffalo City Schools.
"The possible infusion of new students into our schools will allow us to keep open all Catholic elementary schools in Buffalo, providing even more children the chance to take advantage of the unparalleled education that is offered in our schools," the bishop said.
Bishop Malone has pushed for the legislation to be passed almost from the day he arrived in 2012. Last April, the diocese helped organize an "Invest in Education" rally at the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo that drew more than 10,000 people. Several local politicians spoke in support of the bill.
In Albany, the bill has passed the state Senate twice, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has not allowed it to come to the floor of his legislative body. Local officials like Senator Mark Grisanti, Senator Patrick Gallivan and Senator George Maziarz are sponsoring the bill again this year.
"Catholic and other schools in Western New York and throughout the state are under tremendous financial pressure not for lack of desire or demand, but due to low-income and middle class families that are losing the financial struggle to provide this needed educational opportunity for their children," Grisanti said in Buffalo Rising.
The Buffalo News also published Bishop Malone's column in a recent edition.
"While the demand for Catholic school education remains strong, this option is becoming out of reach for too many working- and middle-class families in Western New York," Bishop Malone wrote. "This, in turn, restricts our ability to serve poor families, particularly disadvantaged children from single-parent families who increasingly face greater impediments without the education we offer.
"If more low-income and minority families had access to scholarships, especially families from Buffalo who are desperate for successful schools, then we'd be filling seats in our under-used schools rather than consolidating our buildings."