Private School Leaders Discuss Illinois Education Funding Law

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Stateline-area private school administrators gathered to discuss how they can take advantage of a controversial Illinois Education Funding Law on Thursday.

When the legislature passed and Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) signed off on a new education funding bill, it was hailed as a win for everyone.  School districts across Illinois will get millions more in funding from the “Invest in Kids Act”. 

Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-69th) happens to be Rockford Christian Schools’ Director of Institutional Advancement and says private schools will also benefit, thanks to a tax credit in the bill, and now local private schools are brainstorming on how to take full advantage of it.

“It’s not about any individual school.  It’s about the aspiration of families,” said Executive Director at Rockford Lutheran, Don Gillingham, as he talks about the School Scholarship Tax Credit Program.  The controversial provision passed with the education budget.  It provides $75 million in tax credits for those who donate to private school scholarships.

“It’s just one extra opportunity whether it’s public, private, [or] charter school,” said Sosnowski.  “We just want as many options available for families as possible.”

Some have said that the program takes millions away from public schooling.  An informational meeting was held on Thursday afternoon. Local private school administrators attended.  They say it gives families a choice.

“[It’s] giving families a choice.  [It’s] making it possible for families to direct the education of their kids,” said Gillingham.  “Our private education has been outside the reach of families for far too long.”

The education bill also provided more state funding for public schools statewide.  Rockford Public Schools will receive $5 million more this year. The tax credit for private schools was meant to help low income kids have more educational options.

“Families are very excited to get more opportunities,” said Sosnowski.  “For families who couldn’t afford it otherwise, this will be something that will make them eligible.”

However, Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-67th) does not believe it will work that way.

“My concern is that, even under this new bill, low income students are not going to benefit in a large way,” said Wallace.

Despite Rockford Public Schools receiving more money, Wallace feels the public schools, where most low-income kids attend, are still badly under-funded by the state.

“I am also very concerned that even after all of the fight for SB 1 or SB 1947, Illinois still spends less per pupil than any other state in the United State of America,” said Wallace.

The $75 million program is spread over five years and rules are still being rolled out as to how it will work. 17 other states including Indiana have similar programs. 

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