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By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Catholic church leaders are making a last-minute appeal to parishioners this weekend asking them to help push the stalled Education Investment Tax Credit, which would give a tax break to people who give money to non-profit groups that, in turn, give donations to Catholic and other private -- as well as public -- schools.

What follows is a statement being sent by the Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the spiritual leader of Catholics in New York state, as well as all the state's bishops, that will be contained in church bulletins distributed this weekend to more than 2 million people attending services.

"More than 200 Catholic schools have closed in the last 15 years throughout New York State , as families and parishes, who strongly believe in the value of Catholic education, struggle to keep up with increasing costs. Many of our public schools also desperately need help.

To address these needs, the NYS Catholic Bishops joined a broad coalition of faith groups, community organizations and labor unions backing legislation called the Education Investment Tax Credit . The measure would encourage increased charitable donations to generate more private scholarships as well as dedicated additional resources to public schools. It also helps all teachers provide needed materials and supplies for every classroom in New York.

The vast majority of legislators support the bill. Why? It’s because the legislation will help all children, regardless of where they go to school. It’s a win - win for all families!

Although Governor Cuomo assured us he would fight to include the proposal in the state budget, in the end, we were left out.

As the legislative session ends in Albany this coming week, we pray that Governor Cuomo won’t let us down. W e ask that you join us in that prayer. Pray that Governor Cuomo will put children ahead of politics and fight for the Education Investment Tax Credit . We also ask that you contact him immediately with that same message.

You can send a message to the Governor through the website of the New York State Catholic Conference: www.nyscatholic.org. Time is short. Please act today. God bless you.''

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