Monday, August 10, 2020
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New IL tax credit sends $36mil to private schools

If you live or own a business in Illinois, you can now take advantage of a tax credit for donating some money to private school scholarship funds, and on Tuesday, the first day taxpayers could apply for the credit, some $36 million was donated.

Gov Rauner signs a bill in September (Illinois Public Radio / Flickr CC)

Under the new Illinois law, individuals and corporations can pledge money to a private school scholarship fund and apply for the credit on three-fourths of their donation, with an individual cap of $1 million. The change was part of last year’s school funding overhaul.

Gov Bruce Rauner, a Republican, said in a statement Wednesday that the “outpouring of generosity” showed how many Illinois residents believe families should have a choice in where their children attend school.

The total money available is also capped: credits given in the state will stop at $100 million. The change is expected to cost about $75 million in the first year.

Critics of tax credit for donations to private schools like this say it takes money away from cash-strapped public schools while giving money to schools, individuals, and corporations that don’t really need it.

In reference to Mr Rauner’s remarks, I also believe families have a right to choose where they send their kids to school. They do now. The trick is not so much giving people more money—which is the only goal served by tax credits such as this—but giving kids a good education everywhere in the state, which money does very little to help.

Furthermore, tax credits favor the wealthy and discriminate against people who live paycheck-to-paycheck, because in order the get the tax credit, people first have to come up with the money, which those living paycheck-to-paycheck aren’t likely to be able to do.

So far, though, governors don’t see the greed or the hypocrisy of the argument. It’s illogical to claim, on one side, that sending money to schools won’t improve the situation for kids who attend poor schools and, on the other side, argue that the state should send money to people who send money to schools. It’s a disconnected argument.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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