(The Center Square) – Supporters of the Illinois Invest In Kids scholarship program may be looking to make the program more accessible to families and donors alike.
The program allows donors to get a 75% income tax credit toward donations to fund school choice scholarships for qualified families throughout the state.
Anthony Holter, president of scholarship granting organization Empower Illinois, said 100% of the scholarships are based on need with 70% of them having the most financial need.
“The average household income is $43,000 and these families are receiving scholarships, again, to attend their best fit private schools in every community in the state and every legislative district,” Holter told the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee this week.
He said since the program began in 2018, 37,000 scholarships have been given out from more than $285 million in donations.
Catholic Conference of Illinois Executive Director Bob Gilligan also testified, saying the program can be modified to make it easier for donors.
“It has been a challenge for us in trying to persuade people,” Gilligan said. “It’s not just like writing a check. It’s very complicated. And, there needs to be oversight.”
The groups said they will continue working with lawmakers and stakeholders to better refine the program to connect more donors to more families for choice in education.
There were opponents of the program. Cynthia Riseman Lund, representing the state’s public schools’ teachers’ unions, opposed any expansion, saying the tax credits divert money from public schools.
“[The teachers’ unions] support elimination of the Invest In Kids program. It’s set to sunset in 2025 and we will call for elimination of the program even sooner,” Lund said.
But state Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago, pushed against Lund’s assertion the measure only helps wealthy donors with tax credits.
“Sometimes it’s characterized as just a program that benefits millionaires and we overlook the beneficiaries, which are the students,” Tarver said.
Tarver said more than a third of the donors are not wealthy, making between $100,000 to $250,000.