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Thousands rally for education tax credit

More than 10,000 students, teachers, and administrators packed into First Niagara Center in Buffalo, Wednesday to rally for an education tax credit.

Those public and private school's in attendance called on state legislators to support the bill they think would prevent school closures and bring funding to programs cut from their budgets.

The education credit would encourage people and businesses to donate to public schools and non-profit scholarship organizations by granting donors a credit on their state income and corporate tax returns.

“If you give money to a catholic school, yeshiva or to another type of private school you don’t get a tax credit for that, that is not covered by the bill. If you give money to a student to spend on private school tuition that is not covered by the bill. The contribution has to be made to a private, non-profit, third party scholarship fund. It would pretty much count for anyway you give money into a public school, except your taxes,” said Partners President Bob Bellafiore.

If passed the bill would also give teachers a tax credit when they spend up to $75 of their own money on school supplies. Nativity of Mary students Madeline and Bridgette explain why they felt the cause was so important.

“Because we love catholic education and it really supports us,” said Madeline. “We think that people that don’t have good education should be able to have that education and have that power,” said Bridgette.

The bill has passed in the state senate and has support in the assembly.  Assembly woman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said the proposal faces opposition as some lawmakers feel it would take away from public schools, but she disagrees.

“I’m confident that it could pass, but I know that there are some people in the Governor’s budget office who don’t like to pass bills that have a budget implication, off budget. But the conversation needs to be had and if you don’t push it now then we’ll get to the budget next time and we still won’t be talking about it, so we have to push for passage now,” said Peoples-Stokes.

Peoples-Stokes said funding for the credit would come from the state’s general fund.