Illinois lawmakers have resisted efforts to cut the granting of the Illinois tax credit, and instead expanded the program. Now low-income and minority students need to make scholarships permanent so that they can get the education that best suits their needs.
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Private schools were among the only places children in Illinois could go in person during most of the 2020-2021 pandemic school year, but many families are still denied access to private options due to education costs.
There has to be a way for students from low-income families to apply for a financial scholarship — and there is. Except for Governor J.B. Pritzker, who has already tried to cut the program off. Without any action from Springfield, the Illinois Tax Credit Scholarships, which serve thousands of students, will expire in two years, leaving children and families stranded.
Illinois educational lifeline: The Scholarships Investment Tax Credit for Children, passed in 2017, allows individuals and businesses to donate money to a scholarship-granting organization and receive a tax credit of 75 cents for every $1 donated, with a maximum credit of $1 million. Scholarship money is awarded to families whose income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level. The average annual household income of participants who received a scholarship in 2020 through Empower Illinois, the state’s largest scholarship-granting organization, was $38,000, and 42% of students participating through the Empower Illinois program were black or Hispanic. The Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program provides scholarship money to low-income families so that their children can attend the schools that best suit their needs.
As of May 2021, there were 26,000 children on the waiting list. Pritzker has tried to squeeze the program into its latest budget, calling it a “loophole” that needs to be closed. He wanted to scale back the program significantly.
It was an unpopular move that ultimately failed: one look at the scholarship waiting list shows how much people want to expand this school choice program.
the need: There is a huge demand for better options for families. Only 1 in 10 students at Illinois public schools had access to full in-person classes during the first eight months of the 2020-2021 school year, and 21% of Illinois public school students missed class frequently – at least 10% of their classes They were considered chronic absentees in the last school year. The lack of personalized learning and increased absenteeism was reflected in significantly lower test scores.
The lack of available job opportunities, coupled with the lack of education options for children, has forced many mothers to stay at home. Research shows that states with orders to reopen schools had greater labor force participation for working-age mothers than other states. It is possible that the failure of many Illinois school districts to reopen schools in a timely manner has contributed to the greater absence of working mothers from the Illinois workforce compared to comparable women in other states. Invest in Kids truly is an investment across Illinois, from kids to parents to businesses.
Cloudfilters: “I think it is very important for people to have the ability to donate to the tax credit grant program because they care about the educational needs of the community and for people to have the right to get the education they want for their children,” said Bose Clodfelter, whose son received an Invest in Kids grant that allowed him to give up Bullying and thriving in a different school.” “It is very important that politicians allow this tax credit to continue so that my family has the opportunity to be part of a school system where our children and my family thrive as one.”
Pritzker’s attempt to pull the plug: This year, Pritzker tried and failed to cut the existing tax credit 75% to 40%, which he said would have generated $14 million in general revenue money. But the loss will accrue to low-income families and students who rely on tax credit grants for their education. Instead, state lawmakers have saved and expanded the program through 2023.
Time is still running out for the program and the children who depend on it.
Enlargement and expansion: Making the scholarship opportunity permanent would invest in life-changing educational support for students. State legislators have the opportunity to make the scholarships permanent. And the children they help are some of their most vulnerable components.
Here are five quick suggestions for how Illinois lawmakers can improve the program:
- Make the program permanent.
- Securing “super priority” status for children currently enrolled in the program. Students already in the program have priority in mind, but are grouped with other priority categories. There is no guarantee that they will receive scholarships for subsequent academic years.
- Make donations fully creditable against state taxes, or allow federal deductions for 25% of currently implausible donations against state income taxes.
- Allow companies to designate specific schools as recipients of their donations. Individual donors can do this now, but corporations, partnerships, and trusts cannot.
- Expand to Pre-K. The program currently applies to K-12 schools only.
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