Making Illinois’ tax credit scholarships permanent will let more students excel

Making Illinois’ tax credit scholarships permanent will let more students excel

Illinois state lawmakers can give low-income students the security of an education that best fits their needs by making the Tax Credit Scholarship a permanent fixture.

When Nicole Sniff was told by her son Drake’s public school teachers that he needed to be medicated for behavioral issues or he would face a life of drugs and alcohol, she left in tears.

Nicole refused to believe medication was the only option to improve Drake’s education. So she and her husband enrolled five of their six children at Calvary Christian Academy in Normal, Illinois.

“The very first parent-teacher conference we went to, the teacher looked at me and she said, ‘He has so much potential. I see it. I believe in it. And we’re going to get him the resources that he needs.’ In that moment, I knew that Calvary was exactly where he’s supposed to be.”

The Sniff family is not alone. Thousands of families each year find themselves looking for better educational opportunities for their children, especially when the youngsters do not thrive in public schools. Through the Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program, moms like Nicole can afford to send their children to schools which best fit their educational needs.

Here’s how it works: the Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which passed in 2017, allows individuals and corporations to donate money for private school scholarships and receive a tax credit of 75 cents for every $1 donated. Scholarship money is awarded to families whose income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level: a family of four earning $73,800 or less would qualify.

It was a very similar story for Bose Clodfelter’s sons, Jordan and Aiden. Public school didn’t give them the attention they are now getting, thanks to a scholarship to St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Joliet, Illinois.

“I think that it’s very important for people to have the ability to donate to the tax credit scholarship program because they care about the educational needs of the community and that people have the choice and a right to get the education that they want for their children,” Clodfelter said.

This year, Pritzker tried and failed to reduce the current 75% tax credit to 40%, which he said would have gained $14 million in general revenue funds. But the loss would be to low-income families and students who depend upon tax credit scholarships for their education. Instead, state lawmakers saved and extended the program through 2023.

State lawmakers in veto session have an opportunity to make the scholarships permanent. And the children they help are some of their more vulnerable constituents.

Empower Illinois reported the average annual household income of participants is $38,000, and 49% of participating students are Black or Hispanic.

Thankfully, lawmakers bought time by extending the Invest in Kids program by a year, but making it permanent would invest in life-changing educational support for students.

“Calvary’s reading specialist helped diagnose both of my middle sons with learning disabilities, and we’re getting them the resources they need. And it has been such a gift to be there. No one has mentioned medication and Drake has never had a behavior problem since we put him in Calvary. And without the Tax Credit Scholarship that wouldn’t have been possible,” Sniff said.

Parents deserve the chance to give their kids the best education. Kids deserve the chance to have their specific needs met, supported and to thrive – even if that isn’t in the public school system. Lawmakers have the power to support students, families, and communities by making Tax Credit Scholarships a permanent fixture in Illinois and securing educational opportunities for generations to come.

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