Proposed tax credits would help private schools in Illinois - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Proposed tax credits would help private schools in Illinois

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WSIL -- While public school funding remains in limbo, Illinois lawmakers are debating an initiative that would help private schools expand.

The initiative, known as the Scholarship Tax Credit, would provide $100 million dollars in tax credits to corporations and individuals who give money to help students from low and middle-income families attend private schools.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois is pushing for the tax credits to be attached to either SB1 or be part of a new bill.

On its website, the organization said, "The Scholarship Tax Credit is a proposal that seeks to create both educational opportunities and stability for low and middle income students. Financial grants would be generated from corporate and individual donations to scholarship-granting organizations. Students would then use these scholarships to attend a Catholic or other private school of their choice. To encourage the financial donations required of the initiative, corporations and individuals would receive a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit for their contributions."

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said he's open to the idea.

"As Gov. Rauner mentioned on Tuesday during the press conference, he is open to considering a tax credit scholarship program and has long been an advocate for school choice," said Laurel Patrick, the governor's spokeswoman. "The governor's focus is on enacting a fairer funding system for all children in Illinois, by providing for resources that ensure that all children have access to a high-quality education that will prepare them for both college and career."

Democratic Senator Andy Manar says the initiative would hurt public education.

"The governor is asking for a $100 million voucher program, one that is not funded, one that has not had a single public hearing to my knowledge in the general assembly," said Manar. "This is not about fixing SB1. This is about doing what he wants to do, which is to divest from public education."

Seth Knox, the administrator at Agape Christian High School in Marion, said he supports programs that make it easier for families to afford tuition at private schools like his.

"On our end, we love that idea. We love the idea of making it more accessible," said Knox.

He said as the budget crisis lingers, he has heard from more parents wondering about private schools for their children.

Knox said small class size, a focus on community service, and biblical teaching are the biggest things that set his private school apart from public schools.

The biggest hang-up is tuition.

It costs $4,400 to attend Agape, but other private schools can run double and triple that amount.

Knox said that is another reason he supports lawmakers doing what they can to make private schools more affordable.

"Anything they could do to make it where it's accessible for those that want Christian education, we would welcome that," he said.

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