Tax credit scholarship program described as lifeline for some students
Illinois Republicans and Democrats began squaring off over a tax credit scholarship proposal when it was introduced as part of the state's public funding measure.
Under the measure, Illinois would issue up to $75 million in partial tax credits for private school scholarship donations that would help disadvantaged students have the option of going to a private school. The state would offer a tax credit worth 75 percent of someone's annual contributions, up to $1 million a year.
To be eligible for scholarship, a student would have to live in a household with an income less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that equates to $73,800, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The collected funds would go directly to the schools to provide the scholarships.
“This is about getting kids out of chronically failing public schools and increasing competition,” Kristen McQueary, a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, told Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson on "Chicago’s Morning Answer" radio show after the measure was introduced. “Those schools will have to step up their game."
While McQueary described the program as potentially life-changing, she also acknowledged that it raised the hackles of teachers unions, which called it a voucher program. Public schools also raised concerns about students leaving in droves.
“You will not see a mass exodus from public schools,” McQueary said. “In states that have implemented these programs, less than 1 percent of the public school population ends up accessing this program.”
McQueary argued that premature criticism of the program is unfounded.
“The Hispanic caucus and probably the black caucus is going to put out statements against it, which to me is so wrong-headed because the kids that will benefit from this are Chicago Public Schools kids,” McQueary said.
She said some Democrats also decried the tax credits.
“It is a generous tax credit for people and corporations who decide to donate, but it’s for scholarships,” McQueary said. “It’s for a very laudable cause, and you have to have a very generous tax credit to make this sort of program work.”
The tax credit scholarship program became part of state school funding debate because the original funding measure, Senate Bill 1, could not pass the Democratically controlled Legislature on its own, McQueary said.
“It has to be tied to school funding in order to get some of these lawmakers to reluctantly get on board,” McQueary said at the time.
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Chicago, IL, United States