Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tax-credit scholarships called likely part of school funding bill


By W.J. Kennedy | Aug 24, 2017

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Illinois' education funding bill will almost certainly contain a provision granting tax credits to businesses and individuals that donate to charities that underwrite kids who want to attend private schools, according to inside sources.

Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told the Prairie State Wire that the final details were still being worked out but that he and other members of a coalition organized to support the tax credits language were “feeling good” about its chances of getting through.

The vote on final legislation containing the tax-credit scholarship (TCS) provision could come as early as Wednesday, Gilligan said. If approved, it will mark a big win for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the “land of the impossible,” as one source referred to Illinois: the first time a kid with limited means in a substandard school district will have the money to attend a private school.

As currently written, the total tax credit amount will be topped at $100 million, with the deductible amount set at either 100 percent or 75 percent, depending on the final negotiations. Gilligan said he expects the figure to end up at 75 percent.

A family of four with an income below  $110,000 would be eligible for the program, which would provide up to $12,500 per child.

Gilligan and others said the support of the trade unions, firefighters and “some police” helped to put the provision over the top.

“Many of them live in areas with schools with poor track records, so it’s a burden on them to spend the money to send their kids to private schools,” Gilligan said.

The Senate overrode Rauner’s amendatory veto of the education funding bill, SB 1, on Aug. 13, and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) had earlier said the House would do the same. Most reports, however, contradicted his assertion, suggesting that Democrats did not have enough GOP votes to override in the House. 

Last week, Rauner called on Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) to come together and work out a compromise. 

Supporters of the TCS provisions said they expect to know a lot more on Wednesday.

The tax credits would be a boon for Catholic, other religious and non-denominational private schools, and, as an Aug. 2 article in the Sangamon Sun pointed out, a pathway for more kids to choose politics as a career.

Research by the Sun’s publisher, Local Government Information Services (LGIS), which also owns this publication, found that private schools produce a disproportionate number of statewide officials, state legislators, members of Congress and judges -- and not just in Chicago and its suburbs.

Everywhere private schools exist -- including the Quad Cities, Springfield, Bloomington, Rockford, Peoria, Champaign, the sprawling Metro-East near St. Louis and even tiny Breese -- they continue to fuel Illinois' political machines and family dynasties, LGIS determined.

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