Senate bill puts school-choice scholarships at risk for low-income kids

Senate bill puts school-choice scholarships at risk for low-income kids

The bill would cut off Illinois’ new tax credit scholarship program if the Illinois State Board of Education determined public school funding levels were inadequate.

A bill filed in the Illinois Senate would cut off access to tax credit scholarship funds for low-income students if the state fails to meet certain funding levels for public schools. The Senate Education Committee voted in favor of the bill Jan. 30.

Senate Bill 2236 would amend the Invest in Kids Act by barring the state from issuing the tax credits if the Illinois State of Board of Education determined minimum funding levels for school districts had not been met by the state.

Families relying on Illinois’ brand-new tax credit scholarship program in order to escape failing schools should not be used as political pawns.

Invest in Kids offers a 75 percent income tax credit to individuals and businesses that make donations to qualified School Granting Organizations, or SGOs. For every dollar donated, contributors receive a 75-cent tax credit. Using the donations to fund scholarships, the SGOs then offer lower-income families the opportunity to send their children to qualifying private schools.

The program has received more than $45 million in contributions, meaning thousands of scholarships for lower-income students. It’s Illinois first-ever tax credit scholarship program and one of the largest of its kind in the nation.

State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield, filed SB 2236 in October 2017 and serves as the bill’s primary sponsor. State Sens. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, and Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, have both stepped on as chief co-sponsors of the bill.

Lawmakers’ efforts to push these scholarships to the back of the line shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Teachers’ unions came out forcefully against the scholarship program, including the Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union.

But this program, which will empower thousands of low-income students to access a better education, should not be put at risk for political points.

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